Food Availability Versus Preference of Wild Turkey Poults in Intensively-managed Pine Stands in Mississippi

Importance of invertebrates to growth and development of eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) poults has been well documented. However, few studies have investigated direct invertebrate use by poults, specifically in relation to alternative forest management regimes. Therefore, we measured invertebrate selection by turkey poults in thinned, mid-rotation loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations, treated with factorial combinations of prescribed burning and a selective herbicide, in east-central Mississippi in 2000 and 2001. Using suction sampling and humanimprinted turkey poults, we quantified invertebrate use by poults relative to availability. Turkey poults exhibited heterogeneous use of invertebrate Orders among broods across all treatments and years of study (P < 0.001). Additionally, poults did not select invertebrates relative to availability across all treatments and years of study (P < 0.001). Consistent with previous research, poults exhibited selection of five Orders (Coleoptera, Diptera, Gastropoda, Homoptera, Hymenoptera) and avoided four Orders (Araneae, Hemiptera, Orthoptera, and ‘other'). Future research better defining relationships between poults, vegetation structure, and food availability may assist managers in achieving quality brood habitat. Key words: herbicides, intensively managed pine stands, invertebrates, Meleagris gallopavo, Mississippi, poults, prescribed burning, resource selection, wild turkey

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