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Single Night, Multiple Roost Sites

This Turkey Tuesday is about an interesting behavior by wild turkeys – instances when a bird uses more than one roost site in a single night. Wild turkeys have exceptional vision during the day, as any turkey hunter can attest. But that exceptional vision during the day comes with a cost. That is, turkeys have relatively poor night vision because of how the rods and cones are configured in their eyes, which is one reason that they roost above ground at night. So what would cause a turkey to risk moving roost sites at night, when they lack the ability for their vision to help them detect danger? Well, we see this behavior fairly often with hens that are incubating nests, when they are presumably spooked or attacked by a predator at night and leave the nest to roost in nearby trees. Interestingly, hens that leave the nest and roost after being spooked will also move multiple times during that same night. In fact, we observed one hen that was bumped from her nest at night, and ended up ~600 yards away before daylight, which is quite a move! We also see instances when toms are spooked at their roost site, resulting in them flying away to occupy a roost elsewhere – many of us turkey hunters have likely dealt with this deflating result in the predawn darkness. Lastly, it seems that some birds will move around to multiple trees at a roost site during the night, but why they do this is unclear. The take home is, where a bird first goes to bed at night may not be where that bird ends up watching the sunrise.

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