The diet of an adult wild turkey includes about mostly (90%) plant matter and some (10%) animal matter. Turkey hens consume about 1/3 pound of food daily while full-grown gobblers may eat 1/2 to 1 pound of food each day. Turkey foods fall into four main categories: mast (nuts and fruits), seeds, greens, and insects–and this is important information for landowners interested in turkey management. In winter they prefer hard and soft mast including acorns, beechnuts, crabapples, and hawthorns. Turkey also eat waste grains in harvested fields of corn, buckwheat, soybeans, oats, and grain sorghum, and they will use food plots, as well.
Turkeys foraging in agricultural areas in the fall and spring eat mostly waste grains, wild plants, insects, and young grasses. Corn, buckwheat, and wheat are outstanding sources of fall, winter, and spring foods. As spring changes into summer, hens typically lead their young to open areas with succulent ground vegetation including grasses, sedges, and a variety of forbs and legumes, especially clover. These fields of grass and legumes contain protein-rich insects, which make up 75 percent or more of the poults’ diet until four or five months old. Insects include grasshoppers, ground beetles, flies, caterpillars, ants, and crickets. As the poults grow, the seeds of ragweeds, sunflowers, and grasses are favored along with the fruits of dogwood, wild grape, cherry, sumac, and blackberries. Wildlife managers generally agree that artificial feeding of wild turkeys can overly concentrate the birds in a small area, making them more susceptible to poaching and the spread of disease.
Water is another important necessity. Turkeys need water almost daily and hens rarely nest farther than a quarter-mile from a reliable water source such as a creek, spring, seep, or farm pond. Not only do turkeys need water for survival, but they also prefer to roost near or over it for safety. Knowing what turkey eat and their behavior can help you develop a turkey management strategy for your property.