Recent work has provided measurements of power output in avian skeletal muscles during running and flying, but little is known about the contractile properties of avian skeletal muscle. We used an in situ preparation to characterize the force-velocity properties of two hind limb muscles, the lateral gastrocnemius (LG) and peroneus longus (PL), in Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). A servomotor measured shortening velocity for at least six different loads over the plateau region of the length-tension curve. The Hill equation was fit to the data to determine maximum shortening velocity and peak instantaneous power. Maximum unloaded shortening velocity was 13.0+/-1.6 L s(-1) for the LG muscle and 14.8+/-1.0 L s(-1) for the PL muscle (mean+/-S.E.M.). These velocities are within the range of values published for reptilian and mammalian muscles. Values recorded for maximum isometric force per cross-sectional area, 271+/-28 kPa for the LG and 257+/-30.5 kPa for the PL, and peak instantaneous power output, 341.7+/-36.4 W kg(-1) for the LG and 319.4+/-42.5 W kg(-1) for the PL, were also within the range of published values for vertebrate muscle. The force-velocity properties of turkey LG and PL muscle do not reveal any extreme differences in the mechanical potential between avian and other vertebrate muscle.