Nesting Success, Nest Site Characteristics, and Survival of Wild Turkey Hens in South Carolina

We captured 60 wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) hens from 1998-2001 on the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina to assess nesting success, identify characteristics of successful and unsuccessful nests, and determine survival rates and mortality factors of hens. Hen nesting success varied greatly among years, ranging from 0-80% and was strongly correlated (r = 0.998) with the number of poults per hen observed during brood surveys. Woody stem densities (F30 = 5.1; P = 0.03) and nest concealment (F30 = 4.69; P = 0.04) both were greater at successful than at unsuccessful nest sites. The mean annual survival rate for hens on SRS was 0.74 ± (0.02), and bobcats (Lynx rufus) were the primary predator of marked hens. The dynamics of the long-established, unhunted population at SRS were apparently similar to those of recently established or hunted populations elsewhere.

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