The Rio Grande wild turkey once came very close to extinction, but thanks to several Federal programs that preserved the turkey, it is now thriving and is allowed to be hunted again. The Rio Grande turkey has certain preferences that make it an ideal bird for hunting if you live in one its habitats.
As the name might suggest, the Rio Grande wild turkey does call west Texas near the Rio Grande home, but its territory is much larger than that. George B. Sennett first identified the bird in 1879. Sennett described the turkey as being an intermediary between the Eastern wild turkey and wild turkey species more commonly found in western parts of the US. This intermediary tag stuck, helping to earn the turkey its scientific name, Meleagris Gallopavo Intermedia.
In Bennett's days, the Rio Grande wild turkey roamed in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and even down into parts of northern Mexico. When Bennett first came across the turkey, it is estimated that its popular ran into the millions, but within a few decades, the bird on the verge of extinction. In the early 1930s, several Federal programs were put into place to help protect the Rio Grande turkey. The main procedure followed involved capturing the turkeys and moving them to protected areas where they could reproduce and thrive. Although the turkeys are not thought to have reached their previous numbers, they are believed to have rebounded considerably and are no longer protected. Texas is home to the largest population of Rio Grande turkeys. Thanks to the relocation programs followed during the protection period for the birds, you can find Rio Grande turkeys further a field than their natural habit, including in Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, California and Utah.
When it comes to their preferred environment, Rio Grande turkeys are most at home in shrubby areas, usually near streambeds or other small bodies of water. They also like pine forests and scrub wood forests, but they tend to come out into the open much more readily than other kinds of wild turkey that like to stay in the thick of the woods - hence making them an easier target for hunters. Rio Grande turkeys also like to travel in large packs, sometimes of 100 birds or more, which again makes them relatively easier to hunt than other kinds of turkeys. These wild turkeys are extremely nomadic and have been known to move in packs for 10 miles or more, which is an unusually long distance for a turkey to travel. In terms of climate, the Rio Grande turkey is fairly resilient to temperatures and tends to like places that get between 16 inches and 32 inches of rainfall annually.
In terms of appearance, the Rio Grande turkey is slightly smaller than its fellow turkey groups, like the Eastern turkey or the Merriam turkey. A fully-grown Rio Grande turkey usually stands around four feet tall. The tail feathers tend to be copper in color mixed with pale feathers. On the body, the turkeys are covered with light tan feathers with darker tips, ranging from medium brown to very dark brown. The Rio Grande turkey is often lighter in color than Eastern turkey but darker than turkeys from the western part of the US. The undercarriage of the turkey is usually pink.
One thing that sets the Rio Grande wild turkey apart from other turkey species is the fact that it often uses the same roosting tree time and again. Part of the reason for this is that the places in which Rio Grande turkeys thrive usually have very few trees. Switching roosting trees is something that makes hunting down a turkey a challenge for hunters, so the habit of Rio Grande turkeys of coming back to the same trees time and time again makes them an easier target for hunters.