Pre-incubation Habitat Use by Wild Turkey Hens in Central Mississippi

Habitat use of forested landscapes by wild turkey hens (Meleagris gallopavo) during pre-incubation is poorly documented. Information is needed on how vegetative conditions resulting from forest management influence hen movements, habitat use, and reproductive success. We studied habitat relations of wild turkey hens (TV = 111) during pre-incubation in central Mississippi, 1985-1989. Groundstory composition and structure were different (P < 0.05) between areas used and not used by hens. Hens used areas with relatively low (ˉx = 28 cm) groundstory canopies composed of mostly (79%) grasses and forbs. Mature bottomland hardwood forests and pine forests prescribed-burned the previous February provided suitable groundstories, and these areas were selected by hens (P < 0.10). Hen movements were nearer to creeks than expected (P < 0.001) unless recently-burned pine forests were available to hens (P = 0.02). Hens with pre-incubation ranges composed of mostly bottomland hardwood forests were less successful nesters (P = 0.01). A 6-year prescribed burning rotation resulted in unsuitable groundstory vegetation in upland forests and appeared to cause hen movements, home range, and habitat use to be associated with creek drainages. This constraint may have reduced reproductive success.

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