The turkeys of North America are divided into five distinct subspecies. They differ slightly in size, color, and habits but the geographic regions where they inhabit also helps to distinguish them.
Photos courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation
The Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallapavo silvestris) is one of the largest of the five subspecies. Adult males, or gobblers, may weigh 20 pounds or more. The body feathers of gobblers have a rich, metallic, copper/bronze iridescence. The tips of the tail feathers have a dark buff or chocolate brown color. Hens have a drab appearance to help camouflage them while setting on the nest. The Eastern wild turkey inhabits most of the eastern forest, from southern Canada to north Florida and westward to Texas, Iowa, and Minnesota. The Eastern subspecies of the wild turkey is the one that inhabits Alabama.
The Florida wild turkey (Meleagris gallapavo osceola), also called the Osceola, is found only on the peninsula of Florida. This subspecies of wild turkey was named for the Seminole Indian Chief Osceola. It is similar to the Eastern wild turkey, but smaller and darker in color, with wider black bars on the wing feathers. The large tail feathers are tipped with brown and are similar to the Eastern. These turkeys inhabit the piney woods, prairies and hardwood hammocks of south and central Florida.
The Rio Grande wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) is native to the brushy scrub of the southern Great Plains, western Texas, and northeastern Mexico. They may be found in elevations up to 6,000 feet in mountainous areas, but generally favor country that is more open than the woodland habitat favored by their Eastern cousins. Overall, Rio Grande turkeys are comparatively pale and copper colored. They are distinguished from the Eastern and Florida subspecies by having tail and rump feathers tipped with yellowish buff or tan color. Rio Grande turkeys may form large flocks of several hundred birds during the winter months and may range several miles from roosting sites each day.