Turkey Subspecies

Posted: September 11, 2018

Ever wonder who/how the 5 North America Turkey Subspecies obtained their names? I did, so I thought I would share... 

Eastern Wild Turkey – (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)

The bird was named by Louis J.P. Vieillot (1748-1830) in 1817.  Silvestris meaning “Forest Turkey” Is the most widely distributed subspecies east of the Mississippi River. They are also the most abundant. You can find them in 38 states and numerous Canadian provinces.

Gould Wild Turkey – (Meleagris gallopavo Mexicana)

The bird was named by John Gould (1804-1881) in 1856 during his travels in Mexico.  Gould turkeys are found in the southern portions of Arizona and New Mexico as well as northern Mexico.

Rio Grande Wild Turkey – (Meleagris gallopavo Intermedia)

The bird was named by George B. Sennett (1840-1900) in 1879.  He named it after the Rio Grande River, near which the bird lives.   These Turkeys are concentrated in western desert regions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and other western states.

Osceola Wild Turkey – (Meleagris gallopavo Osceola)

The bird was named by William Earle Dodge (W.E.D) Scott (1852-1910) in 1890. He named it after the famous Seminole Indian Chief Osceola, who was alive in the earlier part of the century. The Osceola wild turkey is also known as the Florida wild turkey and is found in the center two-thirds of the state.

Merriam Wild Turkey – (Meleagris gallopavo Merriam)

The name was named by Dr. Edward W. Nelson (1855-1934) in 1900, who named it after C. Hart Merriam, the first chief biologist of the U.S. Biological Survey.  The Rocky Mountains are considered the central hub of the population.