Volume 46, Issue 2 e1279
REPRODUCTIVE ECOLOGY
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Nest site fidelity and nesting success of female wild turkeys

Michael E. Byrne

Michael E. Byrne

School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, 65211 MO, USA

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Bradley S. Cohen

Bradley S. Cohen

College of Arts and Sciences, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, 38505 TN, USA

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Bret A. Collier

Bret A. Collier

School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 70803 LA, USA

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Michael J. Chamberlain

Corresponding Author

Michael J. Chamberlain

Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, 30602 GA, USA

Correspondence Michael E. Byrne, School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.

Email: [email protected]

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First published: 05 May 2022
Citations: 2

Abstract

Nest site fidelity is a common behavioral trait among birds that can positively influence reproductive success when there is spatial heterogeneity and temporal predictability in nest site quality. Nest site fidelity in wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) has received little attention in the literature despite providing a potential link to nesting success. We used data from 32 female wild turkeys across 8 field sites ranging from South Carolina to Texas with 2 consecutive years of nest data to determine if females showed fidelity to nest sites, if distance between nest locations in consecutive years predicted nest success in the second year, and if females showed fidelity to specific areas within home ranges (patches) for nesting. Females tended to nest closer to previously successful nests (median distance = 920 m) than to unsuccessful nests (median distance = 1550 m) in the second year; however, we documented no evidence of fidelity to specific nest sites. There was widespread reuse of prelaying (89.5%) and laying (77.8%) ranges by females between years, indicating some evidence for patch fidelity. The lack of evidence for nest site fidelity may be a result of the temporally dynamic nature of turkey nesting cover and ubiquity of predation risk across the southeastern U.S, which ecological theory predicts would not provide the reproductive benefits of fidelity that hinge on predictability. Fidelity to patches within home ranges may represent an always-stay approach, which is expected when the cost of dispersing to new breeding areas outweighs potential benefits and may allow females to draw on prior knowledge of areas within their home ranges. Although distance between nests was not a significant predictor of nest success, females that nested successfully in the first year had a probability of 0.63 of successfully nesting in the second year, whereas unsuccessful females had probability of success of 0.08 in the second year. The tracking of individual nesting success across years warrants further research, as our results imply that a disproportionate percentage of reproduction through time may be attributed to a subset of females that are consistently successful, which may have implications for our understanding of reproductive dynamics in low productivity populations.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.