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Toms Changing Course

This Turkey Tuesday is about changing course, as the groups of toms we’ve been seeing start to dissolve and disappear. As winter starts to wind down in parts of wild turkey range, toms are starting to make moves from winter to spring ranges. As days lengthen, testosterone levels start to increase, and the result is predictable – fights erupt in the larger winter flocks we’ve been seeing. These fights can be quite intense, with multiple toms ganging up on other toms, and these fights prompt groups of toms to separate from the winter flocks and establish their own social groups. These smaller groups of toms have already sorted out dominance, so they’re able to “get along” although a fight is never off the table. Recent work (2nd image) has shown that toms in southeastern populations move, on average, >1 mile from their winter range to their spring range and interestingly, hens do something very similar. But also note that some toms may move much farther, and research has shown that these longer moves become more pronounced in western subspecies. Flocks in some of those populations can have wintering areas that are far removed from their breeding ranges. The take home is, toms are beginning to split from winter flocks to head to where they’ll breed, and although most of the time that’s not too far down the road, it can be far enough to make them seem like they’re “here today, gone tomorrow”.

Photo of toms by Joe Foster.

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