Stillwater News Press


April 5, 2014

Pavos on the prairie

STILLWATER, Okla. — The wild turkey is a familiar sight across most of Oklahoma due to its size and tendency to flock in open areas. During fall and winter, flock size can be well over 100 birds that are often segregated with adult males (called gobblers) in separate flocks from females (called hens) and young birds (called poults).

Sometime in March, flocks begin to break up and dominant males join smaller groups of hens. It is at this time wild turkey become most visible as they frequently forage in areas that have green vegetation such as roadsides, wheat fields and especially in recently burned areas. The wild turkey is polygamous, meaning that one male will mate with many hens. Additionally, a hen may mate with several gobblers.

Sometime in April, the hen will start to sneak away from the flock around mid-morning and lay a single egg. She will do this each day until her clutch is complete at around 10-12 eggs, and will then incubate the eggs for about four weeks.

Nests are found in tall vegetation, such as grass or shrubs, as well as under downed tree limbs.  The poults hatch synchronously and are precocial, meaning they are well developed and can forage for themselves immediately after hatch.

Hens will lead their poults to areas that have overhead cover, are open at ground level and have abundant insects, which make up most of their diet. Dense forest with no herbaceous ground cover and thatch forming grasses, such as Bermuda grass are avoided during this time. Poults that survive the summer will join other hens and poults for the winter.

What many people may not realize is the wild turkey all but disappeared from most of its distribution due to unregulated and excessive hunting. The reintroduction and restoration of the wild turkey is one of conservation’s great success stories and took tremendous collaboration between state wildlife agencies, including the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and private organizations, such as the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Early attempts to raise the bird in captivity and then release into suitable habitat failed. Eventually, wildlife biologists developed special rocket propelled nets that were used to capture wild adult birds from the few areas that had abundant remnant populations. These birds were then released into areas that were considered suitable, and they quickly expanded

Today, the wild turkey again occupies most of its original distribution, and has even been introduced into areas that it was not known to historically occur, such as Oregon. The early accounts of Washington Irving in eastern and central Oklahoma document that wild turkeys were very plentiful and provided a reliable food source for Native Americans and for early European colonists.

Fortunately, we did not lose the species and it once again provides recreation, food and diversity to our forest and prairie landscapes.

Dwayne Elmore is Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist in the department of natural resource ecology and management.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
NewsPress e-Edition
NewsPress Specials
AP Video
Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
Helium debate
NDN Video
Facebook Is Officially A Mobile Company 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Swiftair Loses Contact With Air Algerie Aircraft Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid