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Broods and the Importance of Temperature

This Turkey Tuesday is about broods and the importance of temperature in dictating how they use habitats. Broods are inextricably linked to quality early successional vegetation – grassy areas, areas with open vegetation, places where shrubs are sparse and interspersed with open ground and grass. But temperature also matters, particularly early in poult development (first few weeks) because poults lack the ability to thermoregulate like adults. Recent research across a number of sites in the southeast showed clearly that hens with broods selected cooler areas than hens without broods – in fact, they were twice as likely to use locations that were 5 degrees cooler than other locations. But, availability of insects often selected by poults was less in areas with cooler temperatures within stands broods were foraging in. To get around that limitation, hens took broods to areas dominated by herbaceous vegetation with lots of those insects, but then altered use of those same areas as temperatures changed. In other words, hens struck a tradeoff where poults could obtain necessary food to meet energetic demands, while balancing the need to ensure they had access to cooler areas as summer temperatures rose during the day. If you’re a turkey hunter, land manager, or just spend time in the woods during late spring and summer, you too understand that some areas of the landscape are cooler than others. The take home is, when assessing brood habitat, pay attention to areas where broods can easily forage but also to areas where birds could quickly access that offer cooler temperatures – riparian areas with a pronounced canopy, hardwood dominated stands with shade, or even groups of trees along or within open areas that offer shade and air flow.
Photo by Justin Trent

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