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Competition for Winter Food Supplies

This Turkey Tuesday is about competition – in this case, for food supplies that start to wane during winter. Wild turkeys have a diverse diet, but in many parts of their range, they compete with quite a few other species for winter foods. Depending on where you live, deer, feral pigs, various small mammals, and many types of birds all eat some of the same things turkeys eat. But turkeys have ways of dealing with such competition. First, like the tom in this picture, turkeys are not averse to intimidating other critters and each other to hoard food items for themselves. Second, turkeys can quickly forage on limited food items until their crop is full, essentially gorging themselves and then allowing their digestive system to process food while they rest or move to areas where other food can be obtained. Third, turkeys will alter their movements and home ranges during winter based on the conditions they encounter. In some areas where turkeys are using waste grain, they may maintain very small home ranges and really concentrate their activities where there is abundant food. However, in many areas turkeys will greatly expand their home ranges from week to week, often shifting several miles in the process to concentrate where food is abundant and competition is less. In fact, in pine-dominated forests of the southeast, it’s not uncommon for turkeys to cover thousands of acres monthly to move about and exploit food where they can find it. The take home is, wild turkeys have various ways to alter their behavior during winter and “make ends meet”, as the saying goes.

Pic by Clayton Worrell.

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