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Transition from One Annual Cycle to Another

This Turkey Tuesday is about rearview versus forward thinking – in this case, 2 toms literally heading in opposite directions, symbolic of upcoming transitions in wild turkey populations. As we transition into a new calendar year, wild turkey populations in many areas are nearing the point where they will transition from one annual cycle to another. This transition influences not only the flocks we observe today, but also the upcoming reproductive season that is still many weeks away. So, what does rearview vs forward thinking look like for wild turkeys? Well for one, winter flocks really start to lock-in on remaining food sources available within their home ranges, resulting in predictable movements to those food sources. Two, both toms and hens adopt the strategy of increasing fat reserves, as wild turkeys reach their heaviest weights of the year in the upcoming weeks. For toms, these fat reserves support breeding when they greatly reduce food intake and must rely on stored energy. For hens, ample fat reserves can literally mean the difference between being successful during nesting or not – it is imperative to have as much fat stored as possible. Three, toms also start to display and gobble on warm days, and these displays are not meant for hens – rather, these toms are already testing dominance within larger winter flocks before they dissolve prior to breeding. Might as well strut your stuff for everyone, right? Lastly, you’ll see that winter flocks become less rigid, members of some flocks will associate with other flocks, and flocks will often show up at the same locations where they interact before “going their own way”. The take home is, wild turkey flocks will soon start a process that sees them transition from just surviving winter to looking forward to the breeding season – they’re anticipating spring, just as are we!

Photo © Tes Randle Jolly

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