Member No.: 233
Joined: 15-October 08
This is from my Turkey Addict's Manual:
Chapter 2: Wild Turkey Biology & Behavior
Generally speaking, the Eastern turkey is found in open, mixed hardwood and pine forests, the Osceola turkey is found in the subtropical regions of Florida, the Rio Grande turkey is found in the scattered brush land of the southwest, and the Merriam's and Gould's turkeys are found in the pine forests of the southwest. Turkeys prefer to roost in trees larger than the surrounding vegetation and will often choose roost sites on east facing slopes out of the prevailing winds. Because sight is one of the turkeys' means of defense against predators, they often use open fields and meadows as feeding and strutting sites, and wooded areas as roosting sites. Strutting sites are often traditional, used year after year by successive birds.
Turkeys eat a wide range of foods including succulent grasses and forbes, insects, leftover grains, fruits of the grape, cherry and black gum, seeds including mast crops of acorns, pine nuts and juniper (cedar) berries, and new growth agricultural crops. In the winter turkeys rely heavily on acorns and seeds; branch tips of brush and trees; leftover grain crops; and will feed heavily in fields where manure has been spread; at corn cribs and feedlots; and at silage piles. In the early spring turkeys often rely on leftover grain in agricultural fields. Once the weather warms and new green growth appears they will begin feeding in pastures, river and creek bottoms, and hayfields, where they eat green forage and search for insects. Hens often seek out sources of calcium (such as land snails) for egg production in the spring.
The availability and location of turkey roosting sites is a determining factor in turkey use of the habitat. If few or no roosting sites are available turkeys may leave the area or not use it. They prefer to roost in heavy timber in ravines if possible; where they can be out of strong prevailing winds in winter, but they will roost in trees open to the wind. Roost sites are often located over or near water in the south.
Scientific studies have shown that turkeys often roost on an east or south-facing slope, about a third of the way down the slope where the winds are calm. East and south facing slopes also receive the earliest sunlight, allowing the birds to warm-up and be able to see early in the morning. In one study roost sites were often within one half mile of water, and five hundred yards of a meadow. This could be attributed to the fact that turkeys often feed before going to roost in the evening, and they don't travel far at dusk. The preferred roosts in the study were mature trees with open crowns giving the turkeys room to fly into the trees and move around. They also preferred trees with large horizontal limbs to roost on.
In western areas turkeys use fir, pine, spruce, cottonwood and large aspen trees as roosts. Eastern birds often choose pines, elm, maple, box elder, large oak, and cottonwood. Mature toms often choose pines (where they are available) because the pines can reduce wind speeds by 50-70 percent. Eastern turkeys generally have several roost sites in their home range, and they may use different sites on successive nights. In limited and poor habitat, Merriam's turkeys often roost in the same trees on a regular basis.
Vision scientist Dr. Jay Neitz believes that most birds see in trichromatic color like humans, and that some birds see ultraviolet light as different than any of the three primary colors of red, yellow and blue seen by humans. Birds detect ultraviolet light in low light conditions that humans can't detect ultraviolet light, especially birds that are nighttime predators. Because turkeys are a prey species their eyes are located on the sides of the head, giving them a wide field of vision. But, because of their wide spaced eyes, they sacrifice depth perception; they see very little in front of them with both eyes at the same time. As turkeys walk, their heads move back and forth, giving them two different angles of an object, which helps them determine the distance to the object. As a result of their poor depth perception turkeys have difficulty determining the relative size of objects.
The ears of most birds, including turkeys, are located on the sides of their heads, and because they have no outer ear with a cup to enhance the sound from one direction, they hear sounds all the way around them. Sound received by one ear but not by the other ear helps the birds determine which direction the sounds come from, but not the distance of the sound. Loud sounds generally come from closer range than quieter sounds, and cause turkeys to become alert. This explains why prey species with widely spaced eyes and ears, like turkeys, often try to verify the danger with both their eyes and ears, and then give an alarm signal before fleeing. If they don't know which direction the danger came from they need to verify the danger, and its direction, before they flee; or they may actually flee into, rather than away from, the danger.
Mammalian prey species (deer, elk, sheep, etc.) that have a highly developed sense of smell can determine the direction of danger by scent and wind direction. They generally flee downwind or crosswind from danger, knowing they are fleeing away from danger, not toward it. Because most birds have a poor sense of smell they need to rely heavily on both their eyes and their ears to determine the direction of danger before they flee from it.