Date of Award
Master of Science
Wildlife and Fisheries Science
Craig Harper, Richard Gerhold, Roger Applegate
In recent years there has been growing concern for eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallapova) populations in the southeast U.S. because of noticeable declines in productivity and harvest. Tennessee has also seen a decrease in turkey harvest in some counties and a decrease in poult-hen ratios during their summer surveys. This study was designed to identify potential cause(s) of the decline in seasonal productivity. We gathered data on reproduction and resource-selection of nesting and brooding hens to better understand what could be causing the decline in seasonal productivity. We used hierarchical conditional logistic regression with matched pairs to compare use versus availability at the landscape and site-specific levels for both the nest and brood locations. To model nest and poult survival we used a hierarchical model selection process using the nest survival model and known-fate model in the RMark interface. We monitored 206 hens during the nesting season and determined average nesting rate (75.7%), clutch size (9.3), and nest success (33.9%) for 2017-2018. Nesting hens selected vegetative cover types, such as shrublands and old fields, that provided increased visual obstruction and cover over the nest. Percent cover above the nest was positively associated with an increase in daily nest survival. Broods selected areas that had greater fragmentation of herbaceous cover types that were closer to deciduous forests and shrublands. Forb abundance was positively selected for poult habitat at the site-specific level. Poult survival (2017 = 1.5%; 2018 = 9.7%) was positively related to later hatch date and increased daily movements. Daily poult survival during the first four days of life was positively related to nest-site selection for nests being closer to paths or roads. Ultimately, we found that all reproductive parameters were low when compared to studies of stable or increasing populations and that seasonal productivity was affected by each stage of the nesting and brooding cycle. Based on our results, we provided habitat recommendations to positively affect both nesting and poult survival.
Johnson, Vincent, "Nesting and Brooding Ecology of Eastern Wild Turkey in South-Central Tennessee. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2019.