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How We See Roosts vs How Turkeys See Roosts

THROWBACK TT Oct 12th, 2021 – This Turkey Tuesday is about roosts, and how we see roosts very differently than turkeys do. We often look at the landscape and assume that if trees are present, turkeys will roost there. But in reality, many factors influence where birds decide to roost. Gould’s wild turkeys are found in the southwest US into Mexico, and this first picture taken by Steve Spurlock shows the stunning white tips on the tail feathers. The second picture obviously shows roosted birds, but what factors made those birds select that spot? Recent work completed by Nick Bakner reveals that Gould’s select roosts primarily on north facing slopes in pine-oak forests, at elevations exceeding 5,000 ft above sea level. They also mostly select roosts with little slope (less steep) and they show strong fidelity to these roost locations – in other words, they revisit them quite often. What this results in is shown in the 3rd picture – this is a predictive surface showing the availability and distribution of suitable roost sites across a broad area of Arizona. The green areas contain suitable roost sites – despite the availability of trees and vegetation that look like roosts to us, much of the landscape is not suitable for roosting. And naturally, wild turkeys are tethered to their roost sites – they can only move so far away from them during the day. The take home is, in some cases the availability of suitable roosts goes a long way towards dictating where turkeys occur on the landscape.

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