Wild Turkeys, Warner NH
1. Source: UNH Wildlife Profiles Written by Ellen J. Snyder, Wildlife Specialist, and Geraldine Tilley, UNH Cooperative Extension.
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Description: Toms (males) weigh 18-24 Ibs or more; hens (females) about 10 Ibs. Plumage is iridescent bronze; dark in males and tips rusty or light brown in females. Wings and fan-shaped tail show alternating dark bands. Neck and head of adult males is reddish, while females have bluish heads with more feathers. A dewlap (fleshy growth hanging under chin), caruncles (growths located on the side and front of neck), and a snood (a fleshy projection rising above the bill) adorn males. A beard (like bristles on a broom) hangs down from the chest; typical in males and in5% of females. Males have spurs I/4 to I1/4 inch long on the lower legs.
Range and Distribution: A non-migratory native of much of North America from s. Canada to c. Mexico. Habitat loss and over harvesting eliminated wild turkeys from New Hampshire more than a century ago. NH Fish and Game began transplanting wild turkeys into the state in1970. Today the population is 7,000; turkeys are present in every county. Severe winter weather and lack of suitable habitat limit the distribution of wild turkeys in northern NH. Habits and Habitat: Turkeys forage on the ground in flocks, occasionally mounting shrubs and small trees. Acorns, beechnuts, cherries, and ash seeds are primary food sources. Seeds, berries, grasses, sedges and insects are important summer foods. Turkeys eat corn, rye, oats, alfalfa, soybeans, millet, and buckwheat. Grit is important. Adults eat 90% plant matter and10% insects. Poults eat mainly insects. In winter turkeys visit seeps; they feed on sensitive fern fertile stalks, waste corn, and persistent fruits such as barberry, rose hips, and dried apples. Adult males gobble to attract females and to repel competing males. Both adults make a variety of noises - yelps, clucks, cackles, purrs, rattles, and gobbles. Wild Turkeys are polygamous. Toms gather a harem of hens by gobbling, strutting, and using dramatic plumage displays. Mating occurs in April and nesting in May. The nest is typically a small depression lined with dead leaves. Nests are located in areas with a well-developed understory or in cut-over areas with slash. Hens breed in their first year while adult males out compete one-year old males ("jakes"). Hens lay 8-15 eggs. Poults hatch in 28 days typically in early June. Coyote, fox, and fisher are the major predators of adult turkeys. Hens will often abandon a nest if disturbed during incubation. In late summer, hens and their broods often band together to form large flocks. Wild turkeys take advantage of different habitats throughout the year based on their food and nesting needs. In the fall, turkeys forage in mast-producing stands of oak/hickory, oak/pine, and northern hardwoods. Hardwood stands with south-facing slopes and seep areas are favored in winter. Large softwood or hardwood trees are needed for roosting. Wild turkeys forage at farms in winter. Openings, including pastures, hayfields, burned areas, clear-cuts, blueberry barrens, and natural savannas, are a key component of their habitat. These areas support low herbaceous or grassy ground cover and insects needed for brood-rearing. Wild turkeys aren't territorial. They travel over 4 to 5 square miles during the year, although during the winter and nesting season they often restrict their movements within 100-200 acres. Turkeys are active during the day, roosting in trees from sundown until sunrise. Management: Long rotation management that maximizes mast production is an optimal strategy. Even-aged management that effectively regenerates food sources such as black cherry, white ash, and oak is preferred. Minimize forest cutting during the nesting season (April/May/June) to avoid disturbance. Maintain key habitat features such as spring seeps, beech knolls, oak stands, understory vegetation (apples, hawthorns, witch hazel, and viburnums), and thickets or patches of juniper, sumac, barberry, grapes, and bittersweet. Five to 30% of a turkey management area should be in herbaceous openings. A section of corn (25' x 100') left standing through winter can feed a flock of 60 turkeys.
UNH Cooperative Extension programs and policies are consisternt with pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations on non-descrimination regarding age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran's status. College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, County Governments, N.H. Division of Forests and Lands, Department of Resources and Economic Development, N.H. Fish and Game Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services cooperating.
Source: NH Extension, Wildlife Profiles
2. Source: VA Depts of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences and Game and Inland Fisheries
Once thought of as a bird of the mature hardwood forest only, the wild turkey has surprised professional biologists, foresters, hunters, and landowners by adapting to pine plantations and restricted hardwood stands in agricultural areas. Wild turkey flocks need secure roosting areas, open lands for brood rearing, and several miles of suitable terrain over which to find food and cover during the different seasons and from one year to the next. Other critical ingredients in turkey range are protection from free-ranging dogs, illegal hunting (poaching out of season, exceeding legal bag limits, and the taking of hens during the spring), and motorized vehicles. Research has shown that turkeys avoid roads open to motorized vehicle activity, but turkeys will use roads that are gated to restrict access.
Forestry practices resulting in mature hardwoods favor wild turkeys. Rotation ages of 125 years or more are recommended to maintain mast production from hardwoods. One approach is to restrict harvest to 8 percent of a prime oak stand, cut in 10- year intervals. When oaks are managed to produce top-grade sawlogs, the result is a forest that will produce large amounts of acorns in good years. Such practices as timber stand improvement can be used to benefit both the economic and wild turkey yield of the hardwood stand. If the landowner has chosen to cut a mixed hardwood-pine forest and replant it to pine, wild turkeys will not necessarily abandon the property if cutting units are 40 acres or less and BMP's are employed. A key to retaining wild turkeys on large holdings, especially pine plantations, is to insist on maintaining strips of hardwoods along all streams and between cutting units. Watersheds can be connected over steep ridge tops by leaving hardwoods. These wet and steep areas are not good growth areas for pine, so the landowner loses little in return for the chance that wild turkeys will continue to be on the property. Restricting use of herbicides to control hardwood competitions to application only on the hardwoods that are in the immediate vicinity of the pines may be desirable. This, however, is more expensive than aerial applications over the entire stand.
In forested areas where pastures and crop fields are not common, the number of wild turkeys is likely to be limited by shortage of brood range. Wild turkey poults, as well as quail and grouse chicks, depend on insects, spiders, and other invertebrates during the first month of life. These energy and protein-packed foods are most abundant in openings. Convenient ways to provide critically important brood range are to daylight logging roads and to plant logging roads and log landings with grasses and legumes (Table 2). A valuable fall planting mixture for turkeys is one comprised on winter wheat and annual clover (crimson clover). During the late winter and early spring, adult turkeys will feed on the lush green forage provided. During the late spring and early summer, adult turkeys and young poults will feed on the wheat seedheads as well as the abundant insect life found in these plantings.
The landowner who wishes to regenerate hardwoods following clearcutting should leave strips of undisturbed woods along the streams, spring seeps, moist hollows, and bottoms. Removal of individual trees is permissible, but destruction of these corridors of timber reduces the value of the whole tract to wildlife and fish. Allow at least some grapevines to grow to maturity when the new stand develops. These vines may result in deforming some hardwoods that would be crop trees, but grapes are a very important and dependable fall and winter food for wild turkeys and other wildlife. Grapes that hang on after the frost fall to the forest floor when the winter wind blows, providing food when other mast crops are unavailable.