Thanksgiving Week


Since this is “Thanksgiving Week” in much of North America, and since the ocellated turkey is one of the more beautiful birds of Guatemala, we at FLAAR Reports have spent the time making an introductory bibliography on this species.

They turkey which is slaughtered by supermarket chains across USA is the domestic turkey, Meleagris gallopavo. Pretty much the same turkey is the “wild turkey” of much of the USA. My father hunted wild turkey in the Ozark Mountain area of Missouri. They are extremely challenging to hunt; best is very early morning, and have a whistle to mimic a turkey call.


Credit:Meleagris ocellata, occelated turkey Tikal FLAAR Report Meleagris ocellata, occelated turkey Tikal FLAAR Report

The drawing is by Kakchiquel Mayan student intern Josefina. Our goal is to have “family friendly” style, as we wish to create books for children so t hey can understand to protect each species and their needed eco-system.


It would be great to have these books sponsored and in Q’eqchi’ Mayan plus the other languages of the natural area of these turkeys (Peten Ytza Maya, Mopan, etc).

Painting of an ocellated turkey by Josefina Sequen, copyright 2014 FLAAR. Josefina Sequen is a Mayan student intern working at FLAAR Mesoamerica in Guatemala.

Bibliography on Meleagris ocellata ocellated turkey

  • BRANTON, Scott, and Ray BERRYHILL
  • 2007
  • Pavo! Pavo  The Odyssey of Ocellated Turkey Hunting. Mississippi State, Miss. Branton Berryhill Publishers.
  • DICKSON, James, G
  • 1992
  • The Wild Turkey: Biology and Management. National Wild Turkey Federation (U.S.), United States. Forest Service. Stackpole Books.
  • GONZALEZ, Maria Jose., QUIGLEY, Howard B. and I. Curtis TAYLOR
  • 1996
  • Habitat use, reproductive behaviour, and survival of Ocellated Turkeys in Tikal National Park. In: Dickson, J. G. (editor), Proceedings of the Seventh National Wild Turkey Symposiu, pages 193-199. National Wild Turkey Federation, Mechanicsburg, PA.
  • GONZALEZ, Maria Jose., QUIGLEY, Howard B. and I. Curtis TAYLOR
  • 1998
  • Habitat Use and Reproductive Ecology of the Ocellated Turkey in Tikal National Park, Guatemala. The Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 110, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 505-510.
  • KAMPICHLER, Christian, CALMÉ, Sophie, WEISSENBERGER, Holger, and Stefan Louis ARRIAGA-Weiss
  • 2010
  • Indication of a species in an extinction vortex: The ocellated turkey on the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. Acta Oecologica, Volume 36, Issue 6, November–December 2010, Pages 561–568.
  • McROBERTS, Jon
  • 2014
  • Investigations into the Ecology and Management of Ocellated Turkeys in Campeche, Mexico. PhD dissertation, Wildlife Science, Texas Tech University. 134 pages.

    He states "There are no reports of domestication." (p. 14) which would imply that the domesticated turkey of the Post Classic Maya was the other species, the North American Turkey (which was also domesticated in Central Mexico in pre-Columbian times)??. However I estimate that the ocellated turkey was often kept tame in pre-Hispanic Mayan villages. After all, there are take ocellated turkeys wandering around the hotel grounds of hotels in Belize, Peten, and probably parts of the southern Yucatan Peninsula. These tamed birds are not mentioned in this dissertation (I have seen them both in-person and on-line in videos).

    Helpful list of predators (page 18, and p. 78 and a bit on p. 81); nice summary of other authors of what ocellated turkeys eat (especially page 59 and 69-70)

    Has bibliography, but by chapter; I have not yet found all the titles in one place within the dissertation. Not one single photograph. Not one single drawing. A few miscellaneous maps. No glossary.

    This dissertation is mentioned in over a dozen web sites, but we have not found a completed version anywhere (at least not yet). Only recently did we find an actual copy on the Internet.
  • MILLER, B. W. and C. M. MILLER
  • 1997
  • A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxfod University Press. 1010 pages.
  • 1984
  • Field Notes on Winter Flocks of the Ocellated Turkey (Agriocharis ocellata). The Auk, 98/2: 396-398.

    Note: what they call Agriocharis ocellata is now called Meleagris ocellata.
  • TAYLOR, Curtis, I., QUIGLEY, Howard B. and Maria J. GONZALEZ
  • 2002
  • Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata). NWTF Wildlife Bulletin No. 6, National Wild Turkey Foundation.

    Available on-line.

    An informative article, clearly based on lots of good field work. Unfortunately the photos are either scanned film or low-res digital. Since this project was circa 1993, high-resolution digital cameras were not readily available. When you scan 35mm film, unless you have a sophisticated professional scanner you end up with results as seen in this report, especially if the original images were taken without a tripod and without automatic focus to begin with. Also, color balance is not precise (each photo has a different color balance, which is a polite way of saying that the published color is not accurate). Although the research results are timeless, it would help to re-do the photography with modern digital equipment and especially with color balance.

    If you are studying turkey feather patterns on Maya pottery, the photo of a turkey tail on page 6-2 is helpful.

    Map on the final page (6-6) shows location of the ocellated turkey, but it misses Belize totally (Belize is missing from the map entirely!). Plus the distribution in Guatemala is not convincing (shows only a diagonal swatch).

    Web site of NWTF is
  • TOZZER, Alfred, M. and Glover M. ALLEN
  • 1910
  • Animal Figures in the Maya Codices. Peabody Museum, Harvard University.
    This Harvard monograph shows all the animals pictured in the three Mayan codices.
  • WEYER, D.
  • 1983
  • The other wild turkey. AFA Watchbird 10: 26-29

    We are issuing a new bibliography on the ocellated turkey of Tikal Parque Nacional as a PDF during Thanksgiving week 2015.


Web sites worth looking at to see images of ocellated turkey
ARKive, Images and movies of the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata)
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Meleagris ocellata.
Useful information, though similar to that of Wikipedia.
These are professional quality photographs, harvested from diverse sources.
A dozen photographs of the ocellated turkey in its natural habitat.


Books on birds of a country or area of a country,
which should show the ocellated turkey in this specific area.

  • ALVAREZ del Toro, Miguel
  • 1971
  • Delineating Pattern and Process in Tropical Lowlands: Mealy Parrot Migration    Dynamics as a Guide for Regional Conservation Planning. PhD. Oregon State   University, 226 pages.
  • BEAVERS, Randell A.
  • 1992
  • The Birds of Tikal: An Annotated Checklist for Tikal National Park and Peten, Guatemala. Texas A&M University Press. 153 pages.
  • 2006
  • Southern Mexico: The Cancun Region, Yucatan Peninsula, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco. Travellers' Wildlife Guides, Interlink Pub Group. 487 pages
  • 2010
  • Belize & Northern Guatemala. Travellers’ Wildlife Guides. Interlink Books.     477 pages
  • CEBALLOS, Gerardo, et al.
  • 2009
  • Fauna Mexicana: Esplendor de la Naturaleza. Telmex. 303 pages.

    Photo album; not a book with technical information, but most of the photos are outstanding. Covers hundreds of species of fauna, so not many photos of scarlet macaws but the overall book has awesome photographs.
  • CRUZ, Pacheco
  • 1958
  • Diccionario de la fauna yucateca. Merida. 379 pages.
  • L. DAVIS, Irby
  • 1972
  • A Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Central America. University of Texas Press. 264 pages.
  • PRESTON, Edwards, Ernest and Edward MURRELL Butler
  • 1998
  • Field Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Adjacent Areas: Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador, Third Edition. University of Texas Press. 292 pages.
  • EISERMANN, Knut and Claudia AVENDAÑO
  • 2006
  • Diversidad de aves en Guatemala, con una lista bibliográfica. E. Cano (Ed.) Biodiversidad de Guatemala, Vol. 1. Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Guatemala. Pp. 525-623

    On Guatemala alone they have found more than 1200 publications on the birds of Guatemala.
  • EISERMANN, Knut and Claudia AVENDAÑO
  • 2007
  • Lista Comentada de las Aves de Guatemala/Annotated checklist of the birds of Guatemala. Lynx Edicions. 175 pages.
  • FRENZ, Bert
  • 2012
  • A Birders Guide to Belize. Perfect Paperback. American Birding Association. 374 pages.
  • HORWICH, Robert and Jon LYON
  • 1990
  • A Belizean Rain Forest: The Community Baboon Sanctuary. 3rd edition, Orang-utan Press. 420 pages.
  • HOWELL, Steve N. G. and Sophie WEBB
  • 1995
  • Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. 1010 pages.

    I do not yet have this book (but I am trying to get it). Amazon says it has 1010 pages which is entirely unlikely, but at over 850 pages (that Google Books reveal) this is the largest book on this subject in this area for the last 30 years (that I know of). Most books on birds are meant to be portable handbooks (hence tend to not be very long).
  • JONES, Lee H.
  • 2004
  • Birds of Belize. Corrie Herring Hooks Series, University of Texas Press. 317 pages.
  • KRICHER, John
  • 1999
  • A Neotropical Companion. Princeton University Press. 451 pages.
  • LAND, Hugh C.
  • 1970
  • Birds of Guatemala. Harrowood Books.
  • MARTINEZ G., Milton
  • 2013
  • Aves de Guatemala: Birds of Guatemala (El Quetzal, Trogones y Colibrs) (Volume 1). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 116 pages.
  • PETERSON, Tory Roger
  • 1999
  • A Field Guide to Mexican Birds: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador (Peterson Field Guides). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages.
  • SCHLESINGER, Victoria
  • 2001
  • Animals and Plants of the Ancient Maya: A Guide. University of Texas Press. 351 pages.

    Excellent drawings but noticeably weak on knowledge of which plants and animals were really part of Ancient Maya life and beliefs. The book is well intentioned, but, for a university press, especially a university such as Texas at Austin which has such a decades-long track record in quality university research, this book is a disappointment. However for some animals, the coverage is acceptable, so the author does cover the scarlet macaw acceptably.

    Also the black-and-white line drawings are of better-than-average quality: fully professional drawings. And the creatures she does cover are a good start. But a student (and any iconographer, epigrapher, ethnobotanist, or ethnozoologist) needs more than the incomplete number of species of the Maya civilization.
  • SIBLEY, D. A.
  • 2000
  • The Sibley guide to birds. Knopf. National Audubon Society, New York. 545 pages.

    This covers birds of North America, but is helpful for Guatemala because many birds of North America migrate to Central America.
  • SMITHE, Frank B. and R. A. PAYNTER
  • 1963
  • Birds of Tikal, Guatemala, 1963, Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, Volume 128, Number 5 : with 1 plate. pages 245-324
  • SMITHE, Frank B.
  • 1966
  • The Birds of Tikal. Natural History Press. 350 pages.
  • VAN Perlo, Ber
  • 2006
  • Birds of Mexico and Central America. Princeton University Press. 336 pages.
  • WHEATLEY, Nigel and David BREWER
  • 2002
  • Where to Watch Birds in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Princeton Field Guides, Princeton University Press. 448 pages.


Web sites on birds of a part of Mesoamerica
Good for birds of Guatemala.


Updated the week before Thanksgiving 2015.
First posted, Thanksgiving week, 2014