Evaluation of reproductive phenology and ecology of the Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) in west-central Louisiana
Semester of Graduation
Master of Science (MS)
Renewable Natural Resources
Nest predation is the primary source of nest failure, with vegetative conditions at the nest sites considered drivers of reproductive success. Our current understanding of how incubating Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, hereafter, wild turkey) use vegetative characteristic relating to specific predators of wild turkey nests is limited. We quantified the occurrence, diversity, and distribution of potential wild turkey nest predator species across Kisatchie National Forest and Peason Ridge WMA in central Louisiana in relation to vegetative conditions located within incubation ranges used by nesting female wild turkeys. We used 210 camera trap sites surveying 5,144 trap nights and recording 2,925 photographs of potential nest predator species. Potential nest predator species were widely distributed and regularly occurred within nesting areas. Our results suggest that the most important factor affecting a nest’s outcome may be the placement of the nest on the landscape relative to use by potential predator species.
Alternatively, the influence of reproductive timing on nest success is most likely driven by social rank, however the relationship is unknown. Monogamous species regularly demonstrate reproductive synchrony as male investment in female courtship limits extra pair reproductive activities. However, in non-monogamous species, social rank dictates access of individuals to reproductive mates, where typically one male copulates with the majority females creating a strong reproductive skew. Our objective was to evaluate reproductive synchrony within and between presumed social groups and we defined social groups as females captured together as individuals. Using GPS data collected from 225 female Eastern wild turkeys, we identified 30 reproductive groups with 6 females per group on average. Our results indicate female wild turkeys rarely disperse from their social groups prior to the beginning of reproduction and suggest social hierarchy existed within groups. We found the number of days between first nest initiation was longer than expected based on previous literature. If the number of days between subsequent nest attempts is an important factor influencing reproductive success, then factors that cause disruption to breeding behavior could have negative effects on fitness.
Ulrey, Erin E., "Evaluation of reproductive phenology and ecology of the Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) in west-central Louisiana" (2021). LSU Master's Theses. 5246.