This Turkey Tuesday is about synchrony and timing – and why they’re important in the wild turkey world. Hens are known to prefer to breed with dominant toms, and dominant hens breed first, followed by the 2nd hen in the pecking order, and so on. So, within the groups of hens we see at the beginning of turkey season, asynchronous breeding occurs, where you have particular hens breed before others – but then there’s timing. Hens that nest early are more successful in hatching clutches, so ideally, breeding would occur and all of your hens would nest within a few days of each other – they would be synchronized. Well, new research shows that asynchronous breeding may be more pronounced in wild turkeys than we’ve believed, which may be why we’re seeing prolonged nesting seasons in many populations. In other words, the lack of synchrony results in hens within a group initiating their first nests many days or even weeks apart – and perhaps the lack of synchrony is partially related to poor nest success being observed in many areas. In fact, hens within a group that are more synchronized with each other when it comes to initiating nests have greater nest success – so having all of the hens within a group be able to breed and initiate nests within a few days of each other does matter. Likewise, it appears that about 30% of all successful nests may be produced by <5% of the hens in the population! The take home is, synchrony and timing matters in the wild turkey world, and the saying that the early bird gets the worm is certainly the case!
Picture © Tes Randle Jolly