A Study Of Nesting Turkeys In Southern Florida1

Thirty-five turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) hens were instrumented with miniature animal tracking transmitters on a study area in March 1968. Twenty nests were found by directional radio location fixes and one nest was found incidentally. Average clutch size was 9.6 eggs per nest in fourteen nests which were observed after incubation began. Eight nests produced 70 poults from 76 eggs. The other nests failed to hatch because of predation or abandonment due to human disturbance associated with the study. Two incomplete nests contained four and six eggs when they were abandoned, one due to human disturbance, the other because of predation. Predators destroyed four nests before the eggs could be counted. The hens showed a strong preference for nesting in a zone along the edge of the low oak scrub plant association. All except three of the 21 nests were concealed beneath saw palmetto (Seronoa repens). Three late nests were in short herbaceous cover of cypress woods--all three were destroyed by predators. Nests were clustered within the preferred nesting cover type. Most of the nests would have hatched in May. Some of the hens were trapped and moved to the study area from distances greater than six miles but none attempted to return to the capture site. None of the hens was known to conceal her eggs with leaf debris when leaving the nest. Hens frequently flew to and from the nests. They were observed away from the nests at all hours of the day. One apparently roosted once away from the nest but returned the next day to resume incubation behavior and hatch the clutch a few days later. One poult hatched in an abandoned nest three days after the hen had left. Most of the nesting hens were captured with alpha-chloralose on bait. There was no evidence that the drug interfered with hatchability. Other observations are presented including notes on behavior, nest descriptions, and some movement data.

WILLIAMS-16.pdf667.35 KB
Starting page
Ending page