This Turkey Tuesday is about poults – those young birds that make turkey hunters smile when they see them – they represent the future. Wild turkeys in general can use many different habitat types, but poults have very specific requirements. One, they need abundant insects and abundant insects are linked to succulent green vegetation. Two, those insects need to be found in low-growing vegetation where poults can reach them before they can fly – which is at about 10-14 days of life. Three, they need to be able to move freely through the vegetation like the poult in this 1st picture. Four, as poults become more mobile and start roosting off the ground with the hen, like the older poults in the 2nd picture, they need more diverse vegetative characteristics that allow them to forage while also roosting to avoid predators. Poults that are loafing during the day will also use roost trees and shrubs, so having suitable trees within quality foraging areas with succulent vegetation and insects is a must. If you consider all of these things, you likely realize that good poult habitat is structurally diverse as poults age. But why are insects so important? Poults are more successful if they grow big fast. To grow big fast, you need protein and you also need this same protein to support feather molting – if you look at turkey poults from one day to the next, their body and feather development are very rapid. A 3 week old poult hardly even resembles a 1 week old poult. So, poults have high energetic demands and keeping their engines running is key to their survival. The take home is, poults throughout the wild turkey’s range live in all kinds of vegetative communities, but they all require the same basics – us providing those basics through sound land management is key to ensuring poults survive to become juveniles and sustain our flocks.
Photos by Justin Trent.