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Night-time roosting in Meleagris gallopavo (Wild Turkey) is a quotidian activity that minimizes vulnerability to predators and weather. Roost-site selection in managed Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine) communities is poorly documented. We assessed roost-site selection by comparing use and availability of vegetation types at the individual female Wild Turkey home-range level. We monitored 14 Wild Turkeys from February 2011 to June 2012. The Wild Turkeys did not use vegetation types within the estimated home ranges for roosting in proportion to availability (χ² = 601.696, P < 0.001). Female Wild Turkeys roosted in the upland Longleaf Pine in proportion to availability, selected for lowland hardwood, and avoided upland hardwood patches. We documented that roost-site availability is not likely a limiting factor in managed Longleaf Pine forests.
Southeastern Naturalist
I. Sasmal, et al.
2018 Vol. 17, No. 3
2018 17(3):371–380
Eastern Wild Turkey Roost-site Selection in a
Fire-maintained Longleaf Pine Ecosystem
Indrani Sasmal1,*, Eric L. Kilburg1, Christopher S. DePerno1, M. Colter Chitwood2,
Marcus A. Lashley3, Bret A. Collier4, and Christopher E. Moorman1
Abstract - Night-time roosting in Meleagris gallopavo (Wild Turkey) is a quotidian activ-
ity that minimizes vulnerability to predators and weather. Roost-site selection in managed
Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine) communities is poorly documented. We assessed roost-site
selection by comparing use and availability of vegetation types at the individual female
Wild Turkey home-range level. We monitored 14 Wild Turkeys from February 2011 to June
2012. The Wild Turkeys did not use vegetation types within the estimated home ranges
for roosting in proportion to availability (χ² = 601.696, P < 0.001). Female Wild Turkeys
roosted in the upland Longleaf Pine in proportion to availability, selected for lowland hard-
wood, and avoided upland hardwood patches. We documented that roost-site availability is
not likely a limiting factor in managed Longleaf Pine forests.
Roosting locations for Meleagris gallopavo silvestris Vieillot (Eastern Wild
Turkey; hereafter, Wild Turkey) limit vulnerability to predation and can provide
refugia from poor weather conditions (Byrne et al. 2016, Kilpatrick et al. 1988,
Ludwig 2012, Porter 1978). Hence, roosting sites are a critical habitat component
for Wild Turkeys (Bailey and Rinell 1967, Chamberlain et al. 2000). The structure
and composition of Wild Turkey roosting locations are similar across the species’
range (Kimmel and Zwank 1985, Still and Baumann 1989, Zwank et al. 1988). In
the southeastern US, Wild Turkey roost sites often are in lowland hardwood stands
adjacent to permanent water or in Pinus (pine)–hardwood stands (Chamberlain et
al. 2000, Kimmel and Zwank 1985, Miller et al. 1999, Zwank et al. 1988).
Although Wild Turkey roost-site selection has been documented in a variety
of community types (Chamberlain et al. 2000, Kilpatrick et al. 1988, Tzilkowski
1971), information on roost-site selection in frequently burned Pinus palustris Mill.
(Longleaf Pine) communities is lacking. Longleaf Pine communities represent one
of the most diverse ecosystems in the temperate zone and commonly are restored
and maintained with frequent, low-intensity prescribed re (Drew et al. 1998, Fill
et al. 2012, Lashley et al. 2015). However, homogeneous application of burning
1Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program, Department of Forestry and
Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695. 2Wild-
life Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, University
of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812. 3Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture,
Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762. 4School of Renewable Natural
Resources, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803. *Corresponding author -
Manuscript Editor: Robert Carter
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techniques, return interval, and season of burn can decrease compositional and
structural heterogeneity of plant communities in frequently burned Longleaf Pine
communities by differentially promoting the prevailing vegetation type (Longleaf
Pine woodland) and suppressing less-prominent hardwood inclusions (Lashley et
al. 2014). Thus, if mature upland hardwoods provide the best roosting cover, cur-
rent prescribed re regimes may be problematic for Wild Turkeys.
Historically, much of the southeastern US burned frequently, and experimentation
with prescribed re has produced vegetation conditions that benet Wild Turkeys by
providing more diverse or more abundant food and higher-quality nesting cover (Cox
and Widener 2008, Kilburg et al. 2015, Knapp et al. 2009, Lashley et al. 2015). Yet,
little is known about Wild Turkey roost-site selection in frequently burned Longleaf
Pine forests—a landscape where lowland hardwood availability often is limited.
Therefore, our objective was to assess roost-site selection by female Wild Turkeys in
frequently burned Longleaf Pine woodlands in central North Carolina.
Field-Site Description
We evaluated female Wild Turkey roost-site selection at Fort Bragg Military
Installation (hereafter, Fort Bragg) in the Sandhills physiographic region of North
Carolina. The Sandhills region is characterized by variably deep, well-drained, and
sandy soils, with xeric uplands and hillside seeps that feed numerous blackwater
streams (Sorrie et al. 2006). Frequent re and variable soil moisture produced
several vegetation types at Fort Bragg (Sorrie et al. 2006), including lowland
hardwood (10% of the land area), upland hardwood (4%), upland pine (69%), and
non-forested (17%) (Lashley et al. 2014).
Lowland hardwoods contained Acer rubrum L. (Red Maple), Liquidambar
styraciua L. (Sweetgum), Liriodendron tulipifera L. (Tulip-poplar), and Nyssa
sylvatica Marsh. (Blackgum), forming generally closed canopy stands along per-
manently owing streams. Dense thickets of Ilex spp. (gallberries), Lyonia spp.
(Fetterbush), and Smilax spp. (greenbriers) comprised the understory. Xeric hard-
wood species (primarily Quercus spp. [oaks]) dominated upland hardwood areas. A
Longleaf Pine overstory, with an understory of Aristida stricta Michx. (Wiregrass),
Gaylussacia dumosa (Andrews) Torr. & A. Gray (Dwarf Huckleberry), Q. laevis
Walter (Turkey Oak), and Q. marilandica Münchh. (Blackjack Oak), dominated the
uplands. Upland pine stands were burned every 3 years during the growing-season
(i.e., April–August) to control woody-stem encroachment to the forest midstory
in accordance with management objectives for the endangered Leuconotopicus
borealis (Vieillot) (Red-cockaded Woodpecker). Non-forested vegetation oc-
curred primarily in areas with military activity (hereafter, military-activity zones),
including artillery-ring points, aerial-drop zones, and artillery-impact areas. Mili-
tary-activity zones were all sparsely vegetated and dominated by grasses and forbs,
including non-native Eragrostis curvula (Schrad.) Nees (Weeping Lovegrass) and
Lespedeza cuneata (Dum. Cours.) G. Don (Sericea Lespedeza). Drop zones were
burned and mowed annually or biennially to reduce woody vegetation for the safety
of paratroopers; these areas provided no roosting cover for Wild Turkeys.
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We captured Wild Turkeys by rocket net during February–April 2011 and
January–March 2012. In 2011, we fitted each captured female Wild Turkey with
an 85-g micro GPS-data logger (Model G1H271; Sirtrack LTD, Havelock North,
New Zealand) programmed to obtain 4 locations daily (every 6 h, beginning at
00:00:00). We set the fix rate to optimize relocation frequency with data-logger
battery life to ensure the devices could collect data for >1 year. Data loggers were
equipped with radio transmitters and programmed to store relocation coordinates
onboard (Guthrie et al. 2011). All capture and handling protocols were approved
by North Carolina State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
Kernel methods may perform poorly with large data sets when using common
methods of determining the smoothing parameter (h) (Getz and Wilmers 2004,
Hemson et al. 2005). Hence, we used dynamic Brownian-bridge movement models
(Kranstauber et al. 2012) to estimate year-round utilization distributions (UDs) for
female Wild Turkeys. We based UDs on the movement tracks of each individual
(February 2011–June 2012) using R package move (Kranstauber and Smolla 2016)
in Program R version 3.4.2 (R Core Team 2016). The dynamic Brownian-bridge
movement model incorporates the behavioral heterogeneity of the movement pro-
cess (Horne et al. 2007, Kranstauber et al. 2012) and quanties individual-space
use using individual behavioral information. We used a GPS-error estimate of 20
(Byrne et al. 2014, Guthrie et al. 2011), a raster value of 100, and time-step value of
60 (equivalent to 1 hour) with a moving-window size of 29 relocations (equivalent
to 7 d) with a margin of 9 relocations over full tracks of each Wild Turkey.
We assessed roost-site selection within female Wild Turkey ranges using re-
source-selection Design III (Manly et al. 2002). We included only 1 nocturnal relo-
cation per female to ensure that we quantied only a single roost-location per night.
Using ArcGIS 10.3.1 (ESRI, Redlands, CA) and Fort Bragg’s vegetation-type layer
(Fig. 1), we determined percentages of each forested vegetation type (lowland
hardwood, upland pine, and upland hardwood) within the estimated home-range
of each individual Wild Turkey. We assessed roost-site selection by comparing use
and availability of vegetation types within each estimated home-range (Manly et
al. 2002). We dened use as the number of roost locations in a particular vegetation
type, and availability as the percentage of that vegetation type available within the
individual range. We calculated selection ratios and chi-square values to estimate
the overall deviation from random use using program R version 3.2.4 (R Core Team
2016) and the 'adehabitat' package (Calenge 2006). Selection ratios (ŵ) indicated
selection if estimates differed from 1, and we computed ratios for each vegetation
type and individual as the ratio of used proportion to available proportion (Calenge
and Dufour 2006). Selection for vegetation types was indicated if the lower limit of
the 90% condence interval (CI) of ŵ was >1, whereas selection against vegetation
types was indicated if the upper limit of the 90% CI of ŵ was <1. Use in proportion
to availability (neutral selection) was indicated if the 90% CI of ŵ contained the
value 1 (Manly et al. 2002).
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2018 Vol. 17, No. 3
We generated a minimum convex polygon (MCP) area of all roost locations
using Home Range Tool version 2 in ArcGIS. We generated equal numbers of ran-
dom locations within the buffered MCP area of all roost locations, which we used
to delineate the boundaries for vegetation-type analysis. We measured distances
from roosts and random locations to rebreaks/roads, streams, and military-activity
zones using the proximity tool in ArcGIS 10.3.1. We used paired t-tests to assess
whether distance from rebreaks/roads, streams, and military-activity zones dif-
fered between Wild Turkey roost sites and random locations at the 90% level of
signicance (α = 0.1).
We recovered data from 14 GPS tagged Wild Turkeys (13 in 2011 and 1 in 2012),
which recorded 11,655 relocations (mean = 833) between February 2011 and June
2012. Average annual home-range size was 8.54 km2 (SE = 62; Table 1). We recorded
2610 roost locations; not all vegetation types within the 95% home-range estimates
were used in proportion to availability (χ² = 601.696, P < 0.001; Table 2). Wild Tur-
keys used the upland pine (90% CI = 0.68–1.03) in proportion to availability, whereas
Figure 1. Map of forest types used to study female Wild Turkey roost-site selection from
February 2011 to June 2012 at Fort Bragg Military Installation, NC. The white areas within
the forest-type map represent non-forested areas.
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2018 Vol. 17, No. 3
they avoided upland hardwoods (90% CI = 0.44–0.72) and selected for lowland hard-
woods (90% CI = 2.45–4.3) (Table 3). Random locations were an average of 245.75
m (SE = 3.78) from a stream, 96.24 m (SE = 2.64) from a rebreak/road, and 357.29
m (SE = 8.33) from a military-activity zone. Female Wild Turkey roost locations
were an average of 238.21 m (SE = 3.76) from a stream, 112.9 m (SE = 3.75) from a
rebreak/road, and 490.32 m (SE = 10.95) from a military-activity zone. Compared
to random locations, female Wild Turkeys selected roost sites farther from rebreaks/
roads (P < 0.001) and military-activity zones (P < 0.001). Distance to streams was
similar (P = 0.16) between roost sites and random locations.
Table 1. Female Wild Turkey (n = 14) home-range (95%) size estimated using a dynamic Brownian-
bridge movement model, Fort Bragg Military Installation, NC, February 2011–June 2012.
Turkey ID 95% home-range (km2)
851 11.644
800 11.629
701 8.267
650 12.152
551 5.911
450 6.295
371 5.351
350 6.452
311 9.213
251 6.407
171 8.498
123 7.851
91 10.787
21 9.149
Table 3. Roost-site selection, including selection ratios (ŵ), standard errors (SE), and 90% condence
intervals (CI), by vegetation type for female Wild Turkeys (n = 14) at Fort Bragg Military Installation,
NC, February 2011–June 2012. Selection for roosting in a vegetation type is indicated by a CI above
1, selection against by a CI below 1, and use in proportion to availability (i.e., neutral selection) by
a CI overlapping 1.
Vegetation type ŵ SE Lower CI Upper CI
Upland pine 0.85 0.08 0.68 1.03
Upland hardwood 0.58 0.07 0.44 0.72
Lowland hardwood 3.37 0.43 2.45 4.30
Table 2. Available (%) and used (%) forested vegetation types for roosting female Wild Turkeys (n =
14) at Fort Bragg Military Installation, NC, February 2011–June 2012.
Vegetation type* Available (%) Used (%)
Upland pine 21.69 25.14
Upland hardwood 13.36 9.68
Lowland hardwood 3.12 16.21
*Remainder was not forested (i.e., military-drop zones, ring zones, water bodies, and roads)
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2018 Vol. 17, No. 3
Female Wild Turkeys frequently roosted in upland Longleaf Pine, but the con-
dence interval for the selection ratio only slightly overlapped zero, indicating
some avoidance of the vegetation type. Animals adjust their space use according
to resource availability to optimally exploit the resources (Fauchald 1999, Turchin
1991), and it has been demonstrated that roosting sites are selected according to
availability of potential sites on the landscape (Byrne et al. 2015). Thus, the sheer
abundance of Longleaf Pine woodland available on the Fort Bragg landscape could
explain its value as potential roosting cover for Wild Turkeys. Finer-scale location
and vegetation data are needed to help determine the degree of selection for roosts
within upland pine stands. For example, Chamberlain et al. (2000) noted 2 possible
scenarios for roost-site selection that could be relevant for explaining Wild Turkey
roosting behavior in upland Longleaf Pine stands at Fort Bragg: (1) females forag-
ing in upland pine stands may simply y up to roost in the nearest roosting cover at
the end of the day, or (2) females may be using their daily movements through the
upland pine stands to arrive at predetermined roosting sites by evening. Regard-
less of these 2 scenarios, Wild Turkeys likely use upland pine for roosting because
of sparse understory (Palmer et al. 1996) and the potential protection provided by
conifers against harsh weather (Bailey and Rinell 1967, Kilpatrick et al. 1988).
Similar to elsewhere in the species’ range, female Wild Turkeys in our study
selectively roosted in lowland hardwood habitat, but individuals avoided upland
hardwood patches. Lowland hardwood covered ~10% of the land area on Fort
Bragg but offered critically important roosting cover. Although we did not examine
roost-site selection at the level of individually selected trees, Wild Turkey use of
lowland hardwoods for roosting likely suggests selection for taller hardwood trees.
Lowland hardwood areas generally contained tall non-oak hardwoods (e.g., Black-
gum, Tulip-poplar) and interspersed P. taeda L. (Loblolly Pine) (Prince et al. 2016).
At Fort Bragg, mature hardwoods were removed mechanically in some upland
stands, potentially restricting the tallest hardwoods to riparian areas that did not
burn or along rebreaks that provided a re shadow (Lashley et al. 2014). Indeed,
most of the largest-diameter hardwoods and pines were located in riparian areas
at Fort Bragg, and those areas generally contained low densities of reproductively
mature oak trees (Lashley et al. 2014). Given the potential importance of large
hardwoods for Wild Turkey roosting coupled with the known importance of hard
mast to the Wild Turkey diet (Dickson 2001), management actions in Longleaf
Pine communities (i.e., frequent res, chemical or mechanical treatments) that limit
the abundance and distribution of mature hardwoods could negatively affect Wild
Turkey roost availability, especially if the re regime is applied in a way that limits
re shadows that promote succession of hardwoods to maturity in this ecosystem
(Lashley et al. 2014).
Roosting Wild Turkeys avoided the military-activity zones and rebreaks/
roads, but demonstrated no selection for or avoidance of water sources. The birds
likely avoided military-activity zones because they generally lacked trees suitable
for roosting, except along the edges of the openings. However, it is also probable
Southeastern Naturalist
I. Sasmal, et al.
2018 Vol. 17, No. 3
that frequent anthropogenic disturbance in the military-activity zones and along
rebreaks/roads may have deterred roosting Wild Turkeys. Although some stud-
ies have suggested that Wild Turkeys roost near water sources (Boeker and Scott
1969, Chamberlain et al. 2000, Kilpatrick et al. 1988), we did not detect selection
or avoidance for roosting near or over water. Selection of roost sites in proximity
to water in other studies might be an artifact of the improved foraging resources
nearby (Crockett 1973), which might explain why we did not detect a similar effect.
Moreover, data limitations precluded our ability to test for seasonal trends in roost-
site selection, which could have reduced our ability to identify seasonal importance
of water sources.
Movements and behavior of Wild Turkeys can be inuenced by roost sites (Gross
et al. 2015), so maintenance of roost-site availability in Longleaf Pine communi-
ties is warranted. At Fort Bragg, limited availability of tall hardwoods coupled with
anthropogenic disturbance appeared to have the combined effect of limiting the
areas that Wild Turkeys selected for viable roost sites. Although frequent re has
numerous ecological benets for Wild Turkeys and other taxa in the Longleaf Pine
ecosystem, managers will need to consider the compounding effects of additional
management actions (e.g., mechanical removal of hardwoods) that could further re-
duce the hardwood component on the landscape. For example, Streich et al. (2015)
determined that frequent re (≤2-y return-interval) was compatible with conser-
vation of Wild Turkey nest-site and brood ground-roost cover but that managers
should carefully consider removal of hardwoods, particularly in riparian areas, due
to their importance to hens and broods. Also, frequent re can eliminate species that
produce eshy fruits, which are an important food resource for Wild Turkeys (Lash-
ley et al. 2015, 2017). Moreover, removal of relic mature oaks within forest stands
may be particularly problematic without adjusting concurrent re regimes to allow
oak succession in re shadows (Lashley et al. 2014). Thus, managers of the Long-
leaf Pine ecosystem should promote heterogeneous landscape conditions includ-
ing re-maintained uplands as well as lowland hardwoods that are less frequently
burned to provide roosting and nesting cover for Wild Turkeys, while simultaneous-
ly allowing the restoration and maintenance of habitat conditions for other wildlife
species associated with the ecosystem (Kilburg et al. 2014, 2015; Prince et al. 2016,
Sasmal et al. 2017). To conserve Wild Turkey roosting cover in the Longleaf Pine
ecosystem, resource managers should strive to protect lowland hardwoods and cre-
ate a mosaic of upland hardwoods that include both recently burned as well as less
recently burned sections, allowing for the regeneration and maturation of oaks and
other hardwoods in areas of low topography and mesic areas near streams (i.e., in
re shadows; Prince et al. 2016).
Funding for this research was provided by the US Department of Defense. We thank
M. Broadway, M. Nunnery, B. Peterson, and B. Sherrill for eld assistance. We thank A.
Shultz and J. Jones of the Fort Bragg Wildlife Branch for providing trapping equipment and
eld assistance. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and US Department of
Agriculture Wildlife Services assisted with trapping and provided equipment.
Southeastern Naturalist
I. Sasmal, et al.
2018 Vol. 17, No. 3
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... Turkeys are a tree roosting species, using a heightened position to avoid predators at night (Chamberlain et al. 2000, Sasmal et al. 2018, meaning selection for adequate roost locations were included as a component of movement decisions. Finally, while previous studies of wild turkey movements indicate some tendencies to return to previous nesting locations (Badyaev and Faust 1996), we were limited in our ability to assess nest site fidelity and instead chose to ignore this aspect of movement as it affected long term directional patterns and not short distance movement decisions. ...
Wild turkeys are a wide-ranging species with considerable cultural and economic significance. As they can exist across a variety of ecosystems, understanding how land use affects population vital rates can be a crucial component of informed population management. This is even more important for turkey populations in Maine, where harsh winters can have negative impacts on survival and reproduction. I used a combination of banding and tracking data to better understand the relationship between turkey population ecology at their northern range limit and the diverse landscape gradient they occupy in Maine. I produced wildlife management district specific estimates of turkey abundance that accounted for spatial variation in harvest rate. I examined how turkeys moderated their movement behavior and resource selection according to weather factors during the winter. I expanded on traditional methods used to assess nesting habitat to produce a holistic estimate of turkey nesting habitat quality that accounted for multiple nesting stages and spatial scales. Finally, I simulated movement of turkeys during their seasonal movements between winter and spring to better understand how turkey populations were connected across the state. Turkey populations in Maine appear to be largely stable over the past decade, with populations being most dense in the southern portion of Maine and becoming increasingly less dense farther north and inland. Turkeys during the winter adjust their movement behavior, which was associated with changes in resource selection, in response to increased snow depths and decreased wind chill. Such changes likely allow turkeys to shelter and reserve energy during periods of severe winter weather. During the spring, turkeys depart their winter ranges and establish nesting ranges according to large-scale landscape characteristics. Resource selection changed throughout the nesting period according to the specific behavioral phase a turkey was in, with turkeys interacting with their environment at increasingly finer scales as movement became more localized. Finally, we expect that a considerable number of turkeys move among wildlife management districts during seasonal movements between winter and spring ranges, which warrants consideration for management and monitoring efforts.
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Prescribed fire temporarily can alter food and cover resources for ground-dwelling wildlife, potentially leading to changes in animal abundance. Small mammals are an important ecosystem component in many terrestrial communities and depend on ground-level vegetation most commonly affected by prescribed fire. In this complex system of food and cover availability where easier access to food might compromise cover, and vice versa, it is imperative to study postfire habitat use by mice and other ground-dwelling wildlife. We evaluated effects of time since burn and vegetation type on Peromyscus spp. abundance in a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem in Fort Bragg Military Installation, North Carolina, USA, during 2011 and 2012. We trapped in 5 vegetation types and captured 208 individual Peromyscus. Peromyscus abundance did not differ among 1, 2, and 3 years postburn upland pine vegetation types, although we noted a trend of decreasing abundance as time since burn increased; however, abundance was greater in the lowland hardwood vegetation type than in open areas (i.e., military drop zones). The lack of an effect of time since burn could be due to the short fire-return interval at the study site, which limited the time for postburn shifts in the composition of the understory from herbaceous to woody plant species. Therefore, we suggest future research in the longleaf pine ecosystem incorporate a wider time frame to assess short- and long-term effects of fire on small mammal populations.
Conference Paper
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Roosting behavior is poorly understood relative to other facets of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo; hereafter, turkey) ecology. However, GPS technology has provided an opportunity to detail aspects of roosting behavior that have traditionally eluded researchers. We quantified various characteristics of roosting behavior, including numbers of roost sites used, roost site fidelity, and distances between consecutive nightly roost locations for eastern (M. g. silvestris) and Rio Grande (M. g. intermedia) turkeys along a broad ecological gradient. Our study sites were in 3 Bird Conservation Regions (BCR) characterized by varying proportions of forest cover and presumably roost site availability: the Southeast Coastal Plain (SECP, abundant forest cover), the Tamaulipan Brushlands (TB, sparse forest cover), and the Oaks and Prairies region (OP, intermediate forest cover). We hypothesized that roosting behavior would vary as a function of available forest cover. We monitored 36 VHF–GPS radiotagged male turkeys, which provided 4,683 nightly roost locations from 1,724 unique roost sites. We developed a roosting index (RI) to quantify roost site fidelity and found that turkeys in SECP and OP exhibited relatively little fidelity to individual roost sites and longer distances between consecutive nightly roost locations during reproductive season (Mar–May). Roost site fidelity increased and nightly inter-roost distances decreased during summer months. These shifts were potentially linked to seasonal shifts in behavioral state, resource availability, and space use patterns. Roost site fidelity during the reproductive season was most pronounced in the arid TB BCR, least pronounced in SECP, and intermediate in OP, corresponding to variation in availability of forest stands within individual ranges. Median distance between nightly roost locations of Rio Grande turkeys in TB approached an order of magnitude less than that of Rio Grande turkeys in OP or eastern turkeys in SECP. Additionally, spatial distribution of roost sites and forest stands within individual ranges was limited to riparian areas in TB, but was evenly dispersed within ranges in the other 2 BCRs. Based on our findings, we suggest that management actions to create or maintain roost habitat are likely unnecessary in forested landscapes with near ubiquitous roost site availability. However, in sparsely forested landscapes, management practices aimed at maintaining and creating roost sites may be important.
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Prescribed fire is commonly used to restore and maintain the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ecosystem (LLPE). A key function of the LLPE is the provisioning of food for wildlife. Despite the plethora of literature evaluating the effects of fire season and fire-return interval on plant community dynamics, little attention has been given to the response of wildlife foods to fire season or fire-return interval. We measured the availability of key wildlife foods (fleshy fruit [i.e., seed containing a nutritious pericarp] and understory plant biomass) in upland pine forest following dormant- season (December–February) and growing-season (April–June) fires in a chronosequential design. Also, we quantified the relative contributions of the upland hardwood and bottomland hardwood forest types, which often are intentionally suppressed in the LLPE. In 2011 and 2012, we measured understory leafy biomass,biomass of forages selected by whitetailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimm.), and soft mast production chronosequentially in relation to years-since-fire, fire season, and vegetation type in the LLPE at Fort Bragg Military Installation, North Carolina, USA. Understory leafy biomass increased in upland pine and hardwood forests as years-since-fire increased until two years post fire. Selected forages decreased in upland pine forest and increased in upland hardwood forest as time-since-fire increased. In upland pine forests burned during the growing season, 94 % of the fruit was detected two years after fire, 6 % one year after fire, and 0 % the same year as fire. In June, fruit density was greatest in bottomland hardwood forest; in July, fruit density was greatest in dormant-season burned upland pine forest; in August, fruit density was greatest in upland hardwood forest; and in September, fruit density was greatest in upland hardwood and bottomland hardwood forest. Overall summer fruit density (i.e., the sum of fruit density detected each month) was greatest in upland hardwood forest. Understory leafy biomass and deer-selected forages were stable in bottomland hardwood forest because they were not burned, thereby providing a relatively high and stable availability from year to year. Our data demonstrate the importance of diversity in fire season and frequency, and diversity in vegetation types to promote key wildlife foods in the LLPE.
Technical Report
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For decades, the prescribed fires needed to maintain suitable habitat conditions for pineland birds were applied early in the calendar year (i.e., before April) when cooler temperatures and steady winds prevailed. More recently, some land managers have shifted to burning areas dominated by native forbs and grasses later in the year (e.g., after April) both to increase the acreage treated with fire each year and also in consideration of ecological observations. The shift to burning later in the year has led to concerns about the effects such burns may have on nesting birds. We reviewed recent research on the effects of “lightning-season” burning on the breeding birds associated with southern pine forests. The threat posed to nesting birds generally is not as severe as perceived, though additional research is needed for several species. Many ground-nesting birds that might be affected by burns prefer to nest in areas that have been burned recently (i.e., within the past 18-24 months), so the number of nests located in areas typically scheduled for lighting-season burns will be small relative to the total number of nests constructed each year. Birds also frequently re-nest following the loss of a nest, and improved habitat conditions created through the application of prescribed fire may improve adult and juvenile survival and effectively offset the loss of a nest. Burns set in May also provide time for nests of some species to fledge but also are early enough to avoid peak nesting activity for Northern Bobwhite. Late-season burning does not pose a threat to nesting birds when it is included as part of a comprehensive burn program and is used to achieve the fire frequencies required to maintain suitable habitat conditions for many pineland birds on large managed areas. For several pineland species that are experiencing steep population declines, the preferred fire frequency is burning every two-to-three years.
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Forage and nesting cover available to female Meleagris gallopavo (Wild Turkey) prior to nesting can influence nest success. Prescribed burns commonly are conducted during the dormant season in southern Pinus (pine) forests in part to improve vegetation conditions for prenesting Wild Turkeys and reduce risk of fire-related nest failure associated with growing-season burning. However, prescribed burning during the early growing season may provide beneficial food and cover for Wild Turkeys. Therefore, we investigated the influence of fire season and frequency and vegetation characteristics on female Wild Turkey habitat selection during prenesting in a Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine) community managed with frequent growing-season prescribed fire in North Carolina. Growing-season fire history was not predictive of prenesting habitat selection. Females selected forest stands burned during the preceding dormant season, edges of non-forested cover, and creek drainages. On our study area, ericaceous shrubs along creek drainages provided nesting cover, and greater probability of use near creeks likely reflected females searching for potential nest sites. Recent dormant-season burns may provide an important source of nutrition for pre-nesting females and should be used in addition to growing-season burns when managing for Wild Turkeys.
Article Link for Free Copy: Frequent fire-return intervals (<3-yr) have been suggested to optimize the benefits of prescribed fire in many fire-dominated ecosystems. There are several potential ecological benefits to frequent fires, such as suppression of encroaching fire-intolerant plant species, increased reproductive allocations of native herbaceous plant species, and increased plant diversity at the stand level. However, recent literature has reported a decline in frugivorous wildlife species in frequently burned landscapes, raising concern for fire-regime effects on fruit production. Thus, an assessment of the effects fire frequency on fleshy fruit abundance is needed. In a replicated field experiment following 4 or more rotations of a 1-yr, 2-yr, and 3-yr fire-return interval, we measured fruit production each month of the growing season (i.e., May-September) in the critically threatened longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem – an ecosystem where frequent fire intervals commonly are recommended. Compared to the 3-yr fire-return interval, cumulative understory fruit production was 99% less following a 1-yr or 2-yr fire-return interval. In fact, all of the fruit detected in 1-yr and 2-yr treatments were detected in patches of vegetation unburned by the previous fire. Additionally, no fruits were detected on any transect in the midstory and overstory strata. These results suggest that applying fire on <3-yr fire-return intervals across large land areas could have negative effects on soft mast-dependent wildlife species. Moreover, without a mosaic in fire-spread, even a 3-yr fire return interval may eliminate midstory and overstory fleshy fruit production over time. We recommend fire managers incorporate multiple fire-return intervals and firing techniques to capture the ecological benefits of variability in frequency and spatial extents in fire.
Little research has examined roost-site selection processes by eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris). Additionally, few studies have quantified selection of roost sites relative to availability of habitats within the home range and female movements prior to roosting. Hence, we examined selection of roost sites relative to availability of habitats within the home range and assessed the relationship between selected landscape metrics and location of roost sites. We obtained 638 triangulated roost locations on 34 adult female wild turkeys during 1996-97 on a study area composed of different landowners in central Mississippi. Roosting habitat use differed (P < 0.01) from availability within home ranges, with females preferring to roost in sawtimber pine (Pinus spp.) and pine-hardwood stands. Distance to nearest creek and stand age frequently differed (P < 0.05) between roost and random sites. Roost sites were closer to creeks and in older aged stands than random sites. Females did not appear to increase movements prior to roosting, suggesting that roosting may influence female movements throughout the day, allowing females to be at preferred roosting sites at dusk. Alternatively, females may simply roost in the nearest suitable habitat at the end of the day. We suggest managers and biologists consider importance of stand age and landscape metrics to roost site selection when managing for eastern wild turkeys.
Managing and restoring longleaf pine forests throughout the Southeast is a conservation priority. Prescribed fire is an integral part of these activities, as it is the primary means of controlling hardwood encroachment and maintaining native groundcover. Nest site and preflight brood groundroost site selection of eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) has not been well studied in longleaf pine systems. Therefore, we determined habitat characteristics associated with wild turkey nests and ground-roosts in 2 longleaf pine forests in southwestern Georgia. We radio-tagged 45 female turkeys and evaluated habitat characteristics associated with 84 nests and 51 ground-roosts during the 2011–2013 nesting seasons. Nests were located farther from mature pine and mature pine-hardwood stands and closer to shrub/scrub habitats than expected. Nests were also negatively associated with percent canopy closure and positively associated with percent woody ground cover and vegetation height. Ground-roosts were closer to mature pine-hardwood stands and open water than were random sites. We suggest that management of longleaf pine forests should focus on maintaining open-canopied forests with adequate understory vegetation to serve as nesting and brood-rearing cover. Our findings suggest that frequent prescribed fire (≤ 2 years), when the management goal is to optimize restoration of longleaf ecosystems, is conducive to maintaining wild turkey populations.
Because wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are an important game species and turkey hunter numbers are increasing, the need for better information on how turkeys use their environment is critical. With the recent advent of GPS technology suitable for use on wild turkeys, we are now able to collect data on a scale not previously possible. We used backpack style GPS units to detail home range and core area sizes, daily movement distances, and roosting characteristics of male Eastern (M. g. silvestris) and Rio Grande (M. g. intermedia) wild turkeys in Louisiana and Texas. Mean home range size was larger in Louisiana (383 ha) than in Texas (270 ha), and mean distance between consecutive roost sites was farther in Louisiana (803 m) than in Texas (211 m). However, average daily distance traveled was shorter in Louisiana (3725 m) than in Texas (4608 m). The mean distance between consecutive roost sites was 803m in Louisiana and 211m in Texas. Our findings suggest that space use and daily movements of male wild turkeys vary little from Eastern to Rio Grande, but that roosting habits and movements associated with roosting differ strongly. Managers should recognize that availability of roost sites may greatly influence daily movements and behavior of Rio Grande wild turkeys but may have limited impacts on Eastern wild turkeys.