Rio Grande Wild Turkey Habitat Selection in the Southern Great Plains

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  We recorded telemetry locations from 1,129 radiotagged turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) on 4 study areas in the Texas Panhandle and southwestern Kansas, USA, from 2000 to 2004. Analyses of telemetry locations indicated both sexes selected riparian vegetative zones. Females did not select grazed or nongrazed pastures for daily movements. However, females did select nongrazed pastures for nest sites on 2 study areas and males selected for grazed pastures at one study area during the breeding season. We compared nest sites (n = 351) to random sites using logistic regression, which indicated height of visual obstruction, percent canopy cover, and percent bare ground provided the highest predictive power (P ≤ 0.003) for characteristics describing nest-site selection. Nest-site vegetative characteristics between vegetative zones differed primarily in composition: upland zone nest sites had more (P ≤ 0.001) shrubs and riparian zone nest sites had more (P ≤ 0.001) grass. There were no differences in measured nest site vegetative characteristics between pasture types, but there were differences between available nesting cover in grazed and nongrazed pastures. Random plots in grazed pastures had less grass cover (P ≤ 0.001) and more bare ground (P = 0.002). Because of cattle impacts on average grass height and availability, grazing would likely have the highest impact on nesting in riparian zones due to turkey use of grass as nesting cover. An appropriate grazing plan to promote Rio Grande turkey nesting habitat would include grazing upland zones in the spring, when it likely has little impact on nesting-site selection, and grazing riparian zones following breeding season completion. Grazing at light to moderate intensities with periods of rest did not affect male turkey pasture use and may have continued to maintain open areas used by male turkeys for displaying purposes.

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