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Importance of Quality Brood Habitat

This Turkey Tuesday is about the importance of quality brood habitat and what it looks like. In my travels, the most limited type of habitat that I see from a wild turkey’s perspective is quality brood habitat – adult turkeys can use many different plant communities, but broods have very specific requirements. They must be able to move freely, locate and catch insects efficiently, and hide if danger approaches. If you want to assess brood habitat on your own, there’s 3 simple things to do. First, lay on your stomach – that’s the view a young poult has of the world – if you can’t see how to move freely neither can they. Second, roll over on your back and look around – if you can’t see some type of vegetation to duck under and hide, neither can they. Third, get on your knees – that’s the view a brooding hen has of the world – if you can’t see down into and through the vegetation in front of you, neither can she. But if you can check these 3 boxes off, chances are you’re looking at space that can be used by broods. Research has shown that broods forced to move more the first few days after hatching to locate quality habitat have much lower survival – a brood on the move encounters more risk. The 2nd image shows movements of a brood that you don’t want to see – consistently having to move. The 3rd image shows what you do want to see – hunkered down and using smaller spaces rich in resources where there is safety. Research in southern environments also has shown that broods select areas where temperatures are cooler – often in hardwoods – and boy is there a premium on cooler spots right now in my neck of the woods! The take home is, brood habitat is structurally diverse and often limiting, yet is critically important to ensuring our landscapes are productive for wild turkeys.

Pic of brood by Jami Lindler.

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