Survival and Nest Success of Female Wild Turkeys in a Louisiana Bottomland Hardwood Forest

Survival of female wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) influences turkey productivity. Although patterns of survival and productivity have been extensively researched in most forested landscapes, little information is available for female turkeys in bottomland hardwood systems, although importance of these systems is widely recognized. Therefore, we captured and radiomarked 39 female wild turkeys in a bottomland hardwood forest in south-central Louisiana during 2001-2004. Mean annual survival was 0.67. Survival was greatest during preincubation (1.00) potentially because of increased habitat sampling and movement during this period. Fall-winter survival was high (0.93), likely attributable to stable foraging resources and a lack of illegal and legal harvest during this period. Lowest survival occurred during incubation (0.75) and brood-rearing (0.83), primarily as a result of increased risks of predation associated with nesting and brood rearing. Nest initiation rates (33%) were among the lowest reported, likely attributable to high nest loss from predation and flooding prior to completion of laying. Nest success of females reaching onset of incubation was 38%. Our findings suggest that the wild turkey population on our study site balances exceptionally low productivity with relatively high adult female survival. To ensure sustainable populations of wild turkeys, managers should monitor relationships between survival and productivity. Specific to our study site, improvements in nesting habitat may be needed to increase nest success and recruitment. Key words: bottomland hardwood forest, Louisiana, Meleagris gallopavo, predation, survival, reproduction, wild turkey.

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