This Turkey Tuesday is about the need for speed – or perhaps the better saying is speed kills. As turkey hunters, we’ve all matched wits with birds that move little and those that move a lot. Previous research has shown that toms exhibit varying sets of behaviors, analogous to personalities. There really isn’t an average tom in many ways, they all have their own strategies for going about the spring breeding season. Well, emerging work from Patrick Wightman and others is revealing that how fast toms move about their ranges may influence their survival. If you think about it, how fast a bird moves may speak to a bird’s strategy – move slow and be intimately familiar with your surroundings, or move fast and risk missing a detail that may be costly in return for a breeding opportunity. It appears that about half of the variation in travel speeds is simply explained by inter-individual differences – toms are just different in how they behave. But, toms that move faster tend to have lower survival, whereas toms that move about their ranges slowly have higher survival. In fact, for each 50-yard increase in movement per hour, a tom’s survival decreases by 10% during that breeding season. What is at play? Age, social status, experience – all of that, and other factors, could be at play. The take home is, some toms likely invest more in reproducing during a single breeding season, at the expense of having lower survival. Other toms may invest more in the long game, choosing a strategy to maximize survival so they can breed across many breeding seasons.
Photo ©Tes Randle Jolly.