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Ocellated Turkey Meleagris ocellata
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Near Threatened because it has a moderately small population which is suspected to be in decline owing mainly to hunting pressure, plus habitat loss and degradation. Should this species be found to have a small population, it may qualify for a higher category.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Agriocharis ocellata Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Agriocharis ocellata Stotz et al. (1996), Agriocharis ocellata Collar et al. (1994), Agriocharis ocellata Collar and Andrew (1988)

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.

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 1995a) and breeding season survival rates for females (60-75%) and poults (15%) are low in Tikal National Park, Guatemala (Gonzalez et al. 1996, 1998).

Population justification
Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008), thus it is placed in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals here.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to unsustainable levels of exploitation and ongoing habitat destruction.

It occupies non-flooded mature forest, but associates with seasonally flooded habitat and open areas when breeding (Gonzalez et al. 1996, 1998). 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 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 (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.

AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

BBIS. 1998. Belize biodiversity information system: ocellated turkey. BBIS:

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Gonzalez, M. J.; Quigley, H. B.; Taylor, C. I. 1996. Habitat use, reproductive behaviour, and survival of Ocellated Turkeys in Tikal National Park. In: Dickson, J.G. (ed.), Proceedings of the Seventh National Wild Turkey Symposium, pp. 193-199. National Wild Turkey Federation, Mechanicsburg, PA.

Gonzalez, M. J.; Quigley, H. B.; Taylor, C. I. 1998. Habitat use and reproductive ecology of the Ocellated Turkey in Tikal National Park, Guatemala. Wilson Bulletin 110: 505-510.

Howell, S. N. G.; Webb, S. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Miller, B. W.; Miller, C. M. 1997. Avian risk assessment: bird species of conservation concern (Belize).

Weyer, D. 1983. The other wild turkey. AFA Watchbird 10: 26-29.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J.

Colmé, S., Esquivel, E., Kennamer, J., Miller, B., Navarro, A., Wood, P., Sharpe, C J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Meleagris ocellata. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Phasianidae (Pheasants, Partridges, Turkeys, Grouse)
Species name author (Cuvier, 1820)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 142,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species