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Intro to Wild Turkey


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Introduction to the Wild Turkey - Meleagris Gallopavo


Wild turkeys segregate into flocks on the basis of sex and, to some extent, age. In summer, fall and winter, the basic unit is the family flock (brood) consisting of the hen and her poults. One or more successful hens often form multiple hen-brood flocks in late summer and fall. Hens that are unsuccessful in nesting form their own flocks. Adult males form flocks that rarely associate with hens outside of the breeding period. In late fall, young males separate from their brood and form jake flocks. Occasionally, juvenile gobblers will associate with adult gobblers.

Spring brings about some different flocking behavior. In March or early April, the groups of bachelor gobblers will rejoin up with all of the hens and form large groups as the mating season begins. After 2 or 3 weeks, the breeding season is beginning and the birds will break up again into mating flocks consisting of 2 or 3 adult gobblers and 5 - 15 hens. Each of these breeding flocks has the 1 dominant gobbler who does all of the mating and 1 or 2 subdominant birds who help fight off other gobblers. The amount of hens will vary depending the hen population in the area and the number of other dominant gobblers. During this time, there are also the same bunches of young males (or jakes) who generally stay separate from the more dominant gobblers during the mating season.

As the breeding season winds down and the hens are sitting on their nests, the gobblers will do considerable roaming in search of willing hens and/or hens who have lost their nest and are ready to be bred again. The gobblers will eventually lose interest entirely and begin flocking together in bachelor groups once again while the hens go about the business of raising the poults..

Within a flock there is a hierarchy or pecking order in which a rank of dominance is established. Generally, older birds are more dominant than are younger birds, and larger turkeys dominate smaller turkeys. Males usually dominate females.

Home ranges of wild turkeys vary greatly by season and individual. Generally, home ranges tend to be largest from fall through spring. At this time, gobblers use an average of 4-plus square miles, which declines to an average of just more than 2 square miles in summer. However, on an annual basis, individual gobbler home ranges may range from 3 to 11 square miles. Just after the poults are hatched, a hen-brood flock's range may be limited to 100 acres, which increase weekly after hatching date. This is due to the small size and limited mobility of poults.

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