Habitat Characteristics of Eastern Wild Turkey Nest and Ground-roost Sites in 2 Longleaf Pine Forests

Managing and restoring longleaf pine forests throughout the Southeast is a conservation priority. Prescribed fire is an integral part of these activities, as it is the primary means of controlling hardwood encroachment and maintaining native groundcover. Nest site and preflight brood ground- roost site selection of eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) has not been well studied in longleaf pine systems. Therefore, we determined habitat characteristics associated with wild turkey nests and ground-roosts in 2 longleaf pine forests in southwestern Georgia. We radio-tagged 45 female turkeys and evaluated habitat characteristics associated with 84 nests and 51 ground-roosts during the 2011-2013 nesting seasons. Nests were located farther from mature pine and mature pine-hardwood stands and closer to shrub/scrub habitats than expected. Nests were also negatively associated with percent canopy closure and positively associated with percent woody ground cover and vegetation height. Ground-roosts were closer to mature pine-hardwood stands and open water than were random sites. We suggest that management of longleaf pine forests should focus on maintaining open-canopied forests with adequate understory vegetation to serve as nesting and brood-rearing cover. Our findings suggest that frequent prescribed fire (â?¤ 2 years), when the management goal is to optimize restoration of longleaf ecosystems, is conducive to maintaining wild turkey populations.

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