Wild Turkey Nesting Ecology in the Lower Coastal Plain of South Carolina

A population of eastern wild turkeys {Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) was studied in the lower coastal plain of South Carolina to determine if intensively managed short-rotation pine plantations have a detrimental effect on reproductive success. Reproductive parameters including nesting chronology, nest success, hen success, clutch size, and hatchability were estimated from 50 radio-instrumented hens monitored during 1988-1990. Predation during nesting and brooding periods was the major cause of nest and adult hen losses (55%). However, illegal kills were as high (45%). Median dates for incubation initiation and hatching were 8 May and 3 June, respectively. Nest success (% hatched ≥1 egg) was 57.9%. Proportion of hens in the population expected to produce poults was 50%. Clutches averaged 9.8 eggs with 82% hatchability. Number of poults produced/hen averaged 4.0. Nest sites were located in all stand types in proportion to their availability. Stand age or basal area did not affect nest site selection. Most nests (61%) occurred in stands controlled burned within 2 years and 62% of nests were located within 30 m of a road, trail or firebreak. Reproductive parameters were similar to values reported in other studies and did not indicate a negative effect from intensive forest management practices.

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