Travel Distance and Habitat Selection by Female Wild Turkeys on the First Day of Egg Laying

Nest site selection has a critical effect on nest success for eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris), yet the underlying drivers of nest site selection are often misrepresented in the literature. Early works typically focused on evaluating behavioral ecology of female wild turkeys before nest initiation, under the assumption that female wild turkeys sought out nest sites well in advance of nest initiation. However, recent work has clearly found no evidence of nest site search behavior before the day of nest initiation, thus increasing the need to focus evaluations of resource selection on the day when nest site selection occurs (i.e., the first day of laying). Our objective was to determine if differential selection for landcover characteristics was occurring on the first day of an egg was laid (e.g., date of nest site selection). We determined movement paths from the roost to the nest on the first day of egg laying (i.e., laying path) using global positioning system data from 164 female wild turkeys in west-central Louisiana during 2014 to 2021. We compared the landcover characteristics used along laying paths to available landcover characteristics. We found that female wild turkeys showed no clear selection of any landcover characteristics along paths they traveled on the day of nest initiation. Our results suggest that nest site selection was not driven by landcover characteristics and that perhaps selection is driven by other, finer-scale environmental factors or alternatively, may have no clear pattern.

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