Ocellated Turkey Meleagris ocellata


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Near Threatened because its population is suspected to be declining moderately rapidly due to ongoing habitat loss and hunting pressures.

Population justification
Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 mature individuals (Partners in Flight 2019), thus it is placed in the band 20,000-49,999 mature individuals here.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to unsustainable levels of exploitation and ongoing habitat destruction. Forest loss within the species's range is currently estimated at ~10% over three generation lengths (Tracewski et al. 2016) and given the ongoing threat posed by hunting, it is likely that the species is declining at a rate between 20-29% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Meleagris ocellata occurs in south-east Mexico (Yucatán peninsula), north Guatemala (north Petén) and north-west and west-central Belize (Miller and Miller 1997, AOU 1998). It is probably most common in Belize, where there are several quite large populations in protected areas and it is locally abundant (Miller and Miller 1997, BBIS 1998, B. W. Miller in litt. 2000). However, it has been extirpated from north Yucatán, west Campeche, east Tabasco and north-east Chiapas, Mexico (E. M. F. Esquivel and S. Colmé in litt. 1998), and numbers and habitat quality are presumably declining elsewhere (Gonzalez et al. 1996). Although common in some reserves, it is generally rare (Howell and Webb 1995) and breeding season survival rates for females (60-75%) and poults (15%) are low in Tikal National Park, Guatemala (Gonzalez et al. 1996, 1998).


It occupies non-flooded mature forest, but associates with seasonally flooded habitat and open areas when breeding (Gonzalez et al. 1996, 1998). Evidence from Martin and Buchholz (2018) highlighted this species's utilisation of a matrix of forested and agricultural habitats. This species is omnivorous and feeds on the ground, taking grass seeds and leaves, fruits and insects, and corn where available (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding begins in March, with nesting taking place from April. It lays 8-15 eggs (average of 12) in a shallow scrape on the ground. The incubation period is 28 days (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


There is heavy hunting for food and trade (del Hoyo et al. 1994) (and occasionally sport [E. M. F. Esquivel and S. Colmé in litt. 1998]), even within reserves (Gonzalez et al. 1996). Large-scale clear-cutting and agricultural conversion is fragmenting habitat, increasing its susceptibility to hunting (A. G. Navarro in litt. 1999). There are local reports that chicken-born diseases have spread to populations in contact with domestic poultry (Weyer 1983) but this has never been substantiated (B. W. Miller in litt. 2000).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix III in Guatemala (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It is well protected in Tikal National Park, and a reserve has been created to protect this species in Petén (del Hoyo et al. 1994). There is also a sizeable contiguous block of private protected land in western Belize, including the 105,000 ha Rio Bravo conservation area and Gallon Jug/Chan Chich lodge lands, where the species is relatively common (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2011).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to obtain a total population estimate. Monitor populations through regular surveys. Monitor hunting pressure. Record trade levels for this species. Track rates of habitat loss and degradation. Investigate the potential threat of chicken-born diseases. Discourage hunting through awareness campaigns. Increase the number of known sites that are protected.


100 cm. Huge terrestrial, brightly coloured turkey. Predominantly green with black, copper and gold barring. Copper greater-coverts. Black-and-white flight feathers. Tail and upper tail coverts vermiculated greyish with blue-green eye-spots tipped copper. Bare blue head and neck with red orbital ring and clumps of bright orange warts. Male has black bill with horn nail and inflatable head wattles. Female duller with orange orbital ring and flesh coloured bill. Juvenile grey-brown without metallic sheen. Tail greyish with black subterminal band. Voice Male gives a curious accelerating series of nasal grunts becoming a gobble. Female gives low "tok tok tok"cluckings, mainly as alarm call. Hints Usually shy and elusive except where rigorously protected.


Text account compilers
Everest, J.

Benstead, P., Capper, D., Colmé, S., Esquivel, E., Kennamer, J., Miller, B.W., Navarro, A.G., Sharpe, C.J., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J. & Wood, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Meleagris ocellata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/08/2022.