A Study Of Nesting Turkeys In The Edwards Plateau Of Texas

Project personnel contacted ranchers, farmers, highway maintenance crews, farm and ranch laborers, Game Management Officers, and other interested persons to receive prompt reports of nests of Rio Grande turkey (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) found incidentally during the 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1971 nesting seasons. One hundred and twenty-one turkey nests were found during the four year period in the Edwards Plateau of Texas. Upon locations, nests were observed by project personnel and data recorded on nesting forms. Laying began in late February and continued through late August. Laying was started in the latest nest the eighth day of August. Average clutch size was 10.37 eggs in 71 nests observed after incubation began. Forty-seven nests produced 414 poults from 462 eggs leaving 2 fully developed embryos unhatched and 45 infertile eggs in the nests. Seventy-four nests either did not begin or did not complete incubation; of which, 40 were destroyed by varmints or avian predators, 13 were destroyed by snakes, 8 were destroyed by human disturbances, and 13 were deserted for unknown reasons. Nine nesting hens were attacked or killed by predators in the immediate vicinity of the nest site. The incomplete nests contained 785 eggs, an average of 10.61 eggs per nest, indicating they were near or in the process of incubation when destroyed or deserted. Most of the successful nests hatched May 15-June 15. Types of nest cover were woody species, grasses, forbs, and brushpiles. One hundred-one nests (83%) were in cover over 18 inches in height. Twenty nests were found in cover less than 18 inches high. Eightyseven percent of the successful nests were in cover 18 inches or more in height. No nests were found over one mile from water. Nest sites averaged 325 yards from an available water source. Successful and unsuccessful nests averaged 330 and 321 yards from an available water source respectively. No hens were known to conceal their nests upon departure. Two nests of eggs were observed during the actual hatching period. In each case the hen and poults departed the nest site about 24 hours following the hatch. One hen was observed to actively and successfully defend her hour-old poults against a potential nest predating snake. Additional notes are presented on nest description, location, predation, and other nesting characteristics.

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