Tree Farmer - May/June 2011 - (Page 23)

Turkeys eat a lot of green material other than grass. They gather insects, which are high in protein and fat, and other animal matter from This is a fine example of one (Eastern) of the five races of wild turkeys in North America; the others are the Florida, Merriams, Goulds, and Rio Grande. leaf litter on the forest floor. lesser percentages as they grow. Poults get their insects mostly from open, grassy areas. During the warmer months, turkeys do not need trees for food. Turkeys could probably thrive without trees except for their need to roost above the ground. In some treeless areas of the West, turkeys will roost on windmills, power poles, and buildings. As winter approaches, the growth of green material on the ground becomes less available. Then trees become essential for their nuts and fruits. Acorns may comprise half or more of the winter food of turkeys in areas where oaks are abundant. Other trees that contribute important supplies of the turkey’s fall and winter food are dogwoods, sugarberry, hickories, black gum, and tupelo. Hens may seek out snails — a good source of calcium for building eggshells — in late winter and spring. Should you be successful in bagging a turkey, always check the crop to see what it has been eating. I do this and, surprisingly, I often find corn. Nobody grows corn in our neighborhood! My conclusion is that somebody nearby is illegally baiting turkeys or perhaps they are only feeding them. Regular feeding tends to concentrate turkeys in a particular spot. This puts them at risk of certain easily transmittable diseases. International Year of Forests, 2011 To begin a discussion of wild turkey management, let’s review food habits. Turkeys eat many kinds of food. During the warm seasons, turkeys feed mainly by walking about and snapping off plant leaves and stripping seeds from mature grasses and forbs. They pick up insects, fallen fruits, and nuts. They actively chase fast-moving insects such as grasshoppers. They move along at about one to three miles per hour with time off for loafing. They may cover several miles in a day of feeding as they circle back and forth through their home range. If food is concentrated, such as in a forest clearing or a choice food patch or agricultural crop, turkeys may linger in a small area for days or weeks. Then, if food declines and a better source develops elsewhere, they may suddenly move to a new area within the home range to feed on something else. A surprising fact to beginning students of turkey habits is that the number one turkey food, in terms of bulk, is tender, young green vegetation, especially certain grasses. That doesn’t necessarily mean that grass is what turkeys like best — but grass is what they eat most. This is why otherwise fair-to-poor forest habitats are often made excellent by the addition of nearby open grasslands that are grazed by cattle, managed as hayfields, or otherwise kept short and fertile. Favorite cultivated grasses for the cool season are wheat, ryegrass, oats, barley, and rye. Turkeys also eat various native grasses and weeds. As cool season grasses mature and produce seed heads in spring, turkeys eat those as well. As the plants become dry, turkeys can no longer get much use from them. Preferred summer grasses vary around North America. For a list of preferred turkey foods in your area, search the Internet by typing in “food habits wild turkeys.” The National Wild Turkey Federation has a good website: . Turkeys eat a lot of green material other than grass. Some plants, including clovers and nearly all kinds of alfalfa, are better than grass due to their higher protein. Such plants are usually in short supply and thus make excellent plantings. Turkeys prefer insects that are high in protein and fat. Insects are often abundant in stands of nutritious legumes and grasses. Turkeys also gather insects and other animal matter from leaf litter on the forest floor. Insects are an essential ingredient for the rapid growth of the young poults. Poults will eat perhaps 75 percent insects when they are young and Tree Farmer MAY/JUNE 2011 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Tree Farmer - May/June 2011

Tree Farmer - May/June 2011
Cover Story
Select the Right Tree for Your Site
2011 North Central Regional Tree Farmers of the Year - Sponsored by Stihl, Inc.
Wildlife Matters
Taxing Issues
Woodland Security
Forestry 101: Conduct a Simple Timber Inventory

Tree Farmer - May/June 2011