Nesting Activity and Nest Site Characteristics of a Translocated Eastern Wild Turkey Population in East Texas

Sustainability of eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, hereafter turkey) populations following translocation is dependent on reproductive success. Extensive efforts to restore turkeys to east Texas using translocation have yielded mixed results, leading to low-density, fragmented populations. Dynamics of a translocated turkey population are dependent on the outcome of nesting activity and nest success which can be influenced by vegetative characteristics selected by females when nesting. Because translocated turkeys transition from natal to new habitats, understanding patterns of nesting activity and vegetative characteristics selected by nesting females are important to continued restoration of turkey populations. We translocated 78 female and 23 male turkeys from Iowa, Missouri, and West Virginia to southern Angelina National Forest near Zavalla, Texas, during 2016?2017. In 2017, we recaptured eight previously-translocated females and captured three resident females. We used GPS telemetry to monitor nesting behavior of translocated turkeys (first nesting season after translocation) and resident turkeys (second nesting season after translocation or resident turkeys) and evaluated vegetative characteristics at nest sites. Initial nesting rates of translocated females varied from 74% to 82%, whereas renesting rates ranged from 21% to 74% between years; both rates were 100% for resident turkeys. Only two of 31 initial nests (7%) were successful across years, whereas no renests were successful. We documented only one brood surviving 28 days after hatching. Translocated turkeys selected nest sites with more woody cover and greater vegetation height than did resident turkeys, whose nests had more vine cover and lower vegetation height. We 1.) identify potential ways for improving adult survival and reproductive success of translocated birds and 2.) recommend that managers carefully consider source populations prior to translocation attempts.

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