The name of this turkey was derived from the Latin word oculus, meaning eye, because of the eye-shaped spot near the end of the tail feathers. The Ocellated turkey is known by several different names that vary by Central American locale: pavo, pavo ocelado, or it's Mayan Indian name ucutz il chican.
DESCRIPTION The Ocellated turkey is easily distinguished from its North American cousin in appearance. The body feathers of both male and female birds have a bronze-green iridescent color mixture, although females sometimes appear duller in color with more green than bronze pigments. Unlike M. gallopavo subspecies, breast feathers of male and female Ocellated turkeys do not differ and cannot be used to determine sex. Neither male nor female have a beard. Tail feathers in both sexes are bluish-gray in color with a well defined, eye-shaped, blue-bronze colored spot near the end, followed by a bright gold tip. The upper, major secondary wing feathers is similar to M. gallopavo, but the secondaries contain more white coloration, especially on the outer edges.
Both sexes have a blue-colored head and neck with distinctive orange to red, warty, caruncle-like growths called nodules, but they are more pronounced on males. The head of the male also has a fleshy blue crown behind the snood, which is adorned with yellow-orange nodules similar to those on the neck. During breeding season, this crown enlarges and the coloration of the nodules become more pronounced. Ocellated turkeys also have a distinct eye-ring of bright red colored skin, which is especially visible on the adult males during the breeding season.
Legs of Ocellated turkeys are shorter and thinner than M. gallopavo and are red in color. Legs of adult males also have prominent spurs, longer and more attenuated than those of M. gallopavo. Spur lengths in males over one year old average at least 1.5 inches and spurs longer than two inches have been recorded. Ocellated turkeys are significantly smaller than any of the five subspecies of M. gallopavo. Adult hens weigh approximately eight pounds just prior to egg-laying and nesting, and about six to seven punds the remainder of the year. During the breeding season, adult males weight approximately 11-12 pounds.
DISTRIBUTION The Ocellated turkey has a geographic range of less than 50,000 square miles that encompasses northern Belize, the Peten region in northern Guatemala, and the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche, and Yucatan as well as parts of southern Tabasco and northeastern Chiapas in Mexico. The brid is considered endangered in Belize and is protected by law.