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December 7, 2014 Archives

Is it a peacock? Is it a turkey?

Another in the occasional series of gorgeous creatures: the ocellated turkey :)

Image credit: backyardchickens.com

Over on Tetrapod Zoology, Darren Naish provides the detailed story of this species' biology & evolution.

Apparently they are difficult creatures to keep in captivity, so they won't be appearing on the Christmas menu any time soon. They're native to an area of about 130,000 square km across northern Belize, northern Guatemala, and the Yucatan peninsula.

When I first saw an image of this stunning bird (on FB, as one might expect) I thought I was looking at the male of a strongly dimorphic species. However, it turns out that both sexes share this spectacular colour pattern, although the colours may be somewhat muted in females. They're easier to distinguish in the breeding season, because the red & yellow lumps, or nodules, that dot the head & neck swell in males & become even more brightly coloured.

Sadly, as Matt Milner notes on the Cool Green Science blog

Most conservationists consider it near-threatened, with deforestation making the birds easier to kill by local subsistence hunters, a major factor in the species’ decline. 

The North American wild turkey got pushed close to the brink of extinction in New York state & has since bounced back due to careful management of the population and it's habitat, so there's hope for its gorgeous cousin if suitable conservation mechanisms can be identified & put in place.

 

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Recent Comments

  • Alison Campbell: Yes, I thought it deserved sharing as widely as possible read more
  • Cathy: Interesting point by visiblefriends!!! read more
  • Alison Campbell: I saw what you did there! ;) read more
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  • Alison Campbell: Although that does need to explain why the shells in read more
  • herr doktor bimler: There is an argument that the Trinil site was not read more
  • herr doktor bimler: Apparently they are difficult creatures to keep in captivity That's read more
  • Alison Campbell: Yes, your North American turkeys have nothing on this gorgeous read more
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