Movements, survival, and reproduction of Rio Grande wild turkeys in the Texas Panhandle



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Texas Tech University


Dispersal may play a key role in the persistence of some populations and is typically associated with juvenile females in the majority of bird species. To ascertain dispersal prevalence and potential costs, Rio Grande wild turkeys {Meleagris gallopava intermedia) (n = 554) were captured and outfitted with backpack-style transmitters at 3 study sites in the Texas Panhandle. Overall, yearling females had larger home ranges (24.12 ± 27.50 km^) than did any other age class (F = 10,83, df = 3, P < 0.001). The majority of (85.5%) all monitored turkeys exhibited winter range fidelity. Birds exhibiting winter range fidelity were classified as residents while those that did not were classified as dispersers. Adult females exhibited the highest fidelity (96.7%) while yearling females exhibited the lowest (62.5%). While winter was the season of least movement for residents and dispersers, dispersers moved the greatest distances during the spring season (F = 5.52, df = 3, P = 0.002). Birds moving > 7 km rarely (4 out of 88) returned to their original winter roost. Based upon this distribution, birds with limited data to determine winter range were classified as resident or dispersers. Forty-one of 117 yearling females were categorized as dispersers. No differences in annual survival (z <> 1.7486, P ^ 0.059) were detected between yearling dispersers (0.5235-0.6644) and yearling residents (0.4695-0.5722) for any year. Further, no differences (F = 0.58, P = 0.7931) were detected between residents and dispersers for proportions attempting nests or proportion of successful nests. Because of yearling dispersal, management practices treating winter roosts as closed populations may be inappropriate in portions of Rio Grande wild turkey range, thus changing the scale at which management is effective. Further, immigration of yearling females may play an important role in the maintenance of some winter roosts.