Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Report says wild turkey poult numbers are 'respectable'

STACEY COLE September 20. 2013 8:07PM

Ever since the New Hampshire Wild Turkey program's inception, I have enjoyed watching its successes. As the introduced turkeys began to visit us here at the farm during the winter months, my wife Mildred and I began to feed them whole corn. We wanted to make sure they had plenty to eat. As time progressed, each year the flocks grew in numbers, the largest being a mixed flock of 45 birds. In spring we both looked forward to seeing the "Tom" turkeys fluff out their feathers. They appeared to almost double their size as proof to the hens that they were ready to father their poults.

In late August my good friend Ted Walski, New Hampshire Fish and Game biologist, and head of the New Hampshire Wild Turkey program, dropped off a copy of his summary of the status of this year's "Turkey Broods Summer Report." Folks throughout New Hampshire have observed and contributed information about the number of hen turkey flocks and the number of poults that accompanied them.

Ted's summary report as of Aug. 15, 2013, follows: "For the first time in 35+ years of observing and recording turkey brood sightings, I recorded 'minimal' number from other people as well as myself during late May, June, and into July. Andy Timmins (wildlife biologist) said he found the same thing to be true in northern N.H., yet we both knew there were good numbers of adult turkeys before the nesting period began.

"However, since early August observers, including myself, have been seeing a lot more turkey broods with some decent numbers of young. I think the biggest factor why few broods were observed early in the summer was because so many fields were uncut. The majority of brood reports are from people who see poults in hay fields that have been cut as it is then they are most visible. Because of rainfalls and saturated ground this has been a difficult year to harvest hay. My own hay field was just cut on the weekend of August 10-11.

"Generally speaking, the weather of this spring/summer of 2013 has been one of the 'strangest.' We had eleven straight sunny-dry days from April 27 to May 7, with temperatures of 68-80 F. From late June into July we had 35 days of 'monsoon' conditions with temperatures typically around 90 F.

"The several extended rainy periods during May and June no doubt adversely affected survival of turkey poults to one degree or another. My data on the size of poults observed indicate that the majority of hatching the summer of 2013 occurred between the third and fourth weeks of May and the first week of June. This is earlier than the long-term periods that used to be the first two weeks of June. However, the early ending winters and early spring green-ups are changing things.

"It appears quite a bit of re-nesting occurred this summer (2013). Numerous quail-size poults or smaller have been noted in July and early August. Of course, a certain degree of re-nesting occurs every summer. I remember back in 1981 and 1982 there were so many days of rain during April and May that the hens got so sick of rain that they got up and abandoned their nests.

"Data from the public Internet brood survey indicates that some hatches from southeastern NH occurred in early May and even late April. The number of poults was 'respectable' but productivity for summer 2013 will probably not be as good as that of summer 2012 that had semi-drought conditions. This year 4-5 poults per hen seems more common than 6-8 poults per hen of summer 2012. A sample of single hen broods from 10 towns during June yielded 10 hens + 76 poults, or an average of 7.60 poults per hen. Another sample of single hen broods from July yielded 15 hens + 70 poults, for an average of 4.6 poults per hen. A sample of 'multiple' hen broods from July and early August produced a total of 52 hens + 250 poults, for an average of 4.81 poults per hen."

We thank Ted for sharing his report with us.

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Although a great many of the hawks that nest in New Hampshire have left us for their winter quarters to our south we may not have noticed that some of the smaller birds have or soon will be joining them. What about our smallest bird visitor, the ruby-throated hummingbird? According to the New Hampshire Audubon Society in its summer "Afield" publication: "Hummingbirds migrate south at year's end. Adults will usually migrate first, often as early as the beginning of August. The young usually stay longer and are gone by the end of September. Research has shown that hummingbirds will migrate regardless of whether there is food present, so you can leave your feeder up until the weather turns colder and the hummingbirds are gone." Late migrants from the north often stop for a sip.

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.

Nature Talks

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