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1 February 2007 Habitat Use and Survival of Preflight Wild Turkey Broods
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Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) broods spend the first several days of life on the ground until poult flight capabilities are attained. This is a critical period of wild turkey life history, with poult survival ranging from 12% to 52%. We measured vegetation in plots used by Rio Grande wild turkey (M. g. intermedia) preflight broods at 4 sites in southwest Kansas and the Texas Panhandle, USA, to determine microhabitat selection for ground roosting and to determine if microhabitat was related to poult survival. Hens selected ground-roost locations with more visual obstruction from multiple observation heights than random sites. Plots surrounding ground roosts had 1) greater visual obstruction; 2) increased tree decay; 3) higher percent grass, shrub, litter, and forb cover; and 4) lower percent bare ground cover than random sites. Grass, shrubs, and downed trees appeared to provide desired cover for ground-roosting broods. Poult survival increased with age of poult, size of brood, and density of shrubs 1–2 m tall. Plots used by broods <10 days old with above average survival contained more visual obstruction and shrubs than plots used by broods 10–16 days old with above average survival, signifying a shift in habitat use by successful broods as poults attain flight abilities. Density of shrubs 1–2 m tall in brood-use areas appears to be important for poult survival to 16 days of age on southern Great Plains rangeland habitats. Ground-level vegetative cover appears to be a significant factor in preflight poult survival. Provisions of ground-level vegetative cover should be considered during wild turkey brooding periods where increased poult survival is desired.

BRIAN L. SPEARS, MARK C. WALLACE, WARREN B. BALLARD, RICHARD S. PHILLIPS, DERRICK P. HOLDSTOCK, JOHN H. BRUNJES, ROGER APPLEGATE, MICHAEL S. MILLER, and PHILLIP S. GIPSON "Habitat Use and Survival of Preflight Wild Turkey Broods," Journal of Wildlife Management 71(1), 69-81, (1 February 2007).
Published: 1 February 2007

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