Rio Grande Turkeys

As I was sitting behind the Airstream reading on our last evening in South Llano River State Park, the dog stirred and became interested in something behind me.  It was a “parade” of about 25 Rio Grande turkeys strolling down the park road enroute to their roosting spots along the river.  They are pretty birds — a little smaller than our eastern turkeys but seemingly longer and taller.  It is pale and copper-colored having tail feathers and tail/rump coverts (short feathers located at the base of the tail) tipped with a yellowish buff.
South Llano River SP is home to one of the most significant Rio Grande turkey roosts in Central Texas.  About 800 turkeys roost every year at the park and their grounds are marked off until April.
 
The Rio Grande wild turkey is native to the semi-arid areas of the southern Great Plains states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Northeastern Mexico. It received its common name from the Rio Grande River, which is the water supply bordering the brushy scrub, arid country of some of its prime range in western Texas and northeastern Mexico. This race of turkeys generally occurs in areas having 16 to 32 inches of rainfall.
 
This subspecies was first described by George B. Sennett in 1879 who said it was intermediate in appearance between the eastern and western subspecies, hence its scientific name, Meleagris Gallapavo Intermedia.
Rio Grande Turkey strutting its stuff
Originally existing in the millions, this turkey had depleted to extremely low numbers by 1920. Formal programs involving trapping and transplanting were initiated in the 1930’s and today it exists over much of its ancestral range. Texas has the most Rio Grandes with a population estimated at over 600,000 birds.
One of the neat things camping at South Llano River is to hear the turkeys call to one another in the early evening — and then again in the morning.  And then to see them parade from their roosts, sometimes displaying as in the photo I took the other day.

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