This Turkey Tuesday is about the consistency of breeding and nesting efforts in wild turkey populations. I’ll often hear us turkey hunters talk about the fact that toms are breeding “early” in some years, or that breeding is already in full swing in one state whereas it’s not in another nearby state. This discussion then moves on to the potential that nesting will be much earlier, or much later, in a particular year or area. While it is true that breeding and nesting efforts may vary a few days or a week from one year to the next, when you look at data across a number of years collected at broad spatial scales, you see strong consistency. This second image shows the dates of onset of nest incubation for >550 hens monitored across states spanning the southeastern United States. You’ll note that nesting really gets rolling the first few weeks of April, and as this process starts, that’s also when you observe peaks in breeding as competition amongst toms escalates. This figure also speaks to the importance of collecting and interpreting data that span time and space, because when you have such data available, you see clear and relevant patterns. You’ll note that the trend is the same in each state, which makes sense given that these states are roughly at the same latitude. In other words, breeding ramps up in each of these states at about the same time, which translates to nesting efforts also predictably ramping up soon thereafter. The take home is, wild turkeys are adapted to breed and produce young at predictable times each spring that should be consistent by latitude through time – what is ongoing in one area is largely consistent with nearby areas, which ensures that reproduction is occurring at optimal times each year across our landscapes.
Photo of tom and hen ©Tes Randle Jolly.