Western Chicken Turtle

Raise your hand if you know what a Chicken Turtle is. Me either. The Western Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia miaria) is relatively rare compared to other aquatic turtles like painted turtles or red-eared sliders, but…there is a good chance you’ve seen one and not known what you were looking at. From a distance, the Chicken Turtle looks like a painted turtle or red-eared slider – a small to medium sized pond/basking turtle. It is very shy, but if you can catch one with its neck extended, you will see a huge difference. The neck is almost as long as the body! That’s quite a reach! The striped unusually long neck gives the Chicken Turtle an advantage in capturing its preferred diet of crayfish, fish, tadpoles and other small vertebrates and invertebrates. Another interesting hunting adaptation is a well developed hyoid apparatus which allows the turtle to literally suck prey into its mouth! The Chicken Turtle is omnivorous, but leans strongly to carnivorous when prey is available. Chicken Turtles are as comfortable on land as they are in the water. They will range widely between aquatic habitats, the males usually ranging much further than the females. They prefer quiet still waters such as shallow ponds, lakes, ditches and marshes. Like red eared sliders, the Chicken Turtle is social and enjoys basking on logs or rocks that are partially submerged in the water. In colder regions the Chicken Turtle will hibernate in the soft mud and will burrow deeply to avoid dry conditions. Courtship begins with the male vibrating his fore-claws against the female’s face. Chicken Turtles are unusual in that the reproduction season is either late fall into winter or winter into early spring. The embryos [...]