John's Journal...

The Latest Turkey Research

Gobbler Kidnappers

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: What have scientists learned about turkeys and turkey habitat that can help us understand turkeys better, learn how to provide better habitat for them and find out why and when they gobble? State conservation agencies across the United States currently haClick to enlargeve conducted research projects in these areas with the help of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the federal government and other conservation organizations. To learn the latest information, we’ve talked with Tom Hughes, senior wildlife biologist for the NWTF (

Currently, Virginia’s conducting a research project to find out who’s taking the state’s gobblers. When turkey populations decline, and coyote populations increase, the song dogs generally get the rap for gobbler-nabbing. A new study examines the mortality rate of Virginia’s gobblers by banding and radio-collaring turkey gobblers to keep up with these turkeys’ movement patterns and uncover who or what’s taking the toms. Have the missing turkeys died of natural causes? Have predators killed them? Or, have turkey hunters bagged most of the turkeys?

“There have been studies in the past indicating that hunters are taking more turkey gobblers than biologists originally have thought they’re harvesting,” Hughes emphasizes. “Research animals are so valuable, and the technology and the manpower required to keep up with wild turkeys is so expensive that Click to enlargein most research studies, more than one specific type of information is gathered.

“For instance, another really-fascinating part of the tagging and the radio-collaring study being cClick to enlargeonducted in Virginia is the data logger, a band and a radio collar that have been attached to each turkey. This data logger is sensitive to sound and vibration and records each time the turkey gobbles. By correlating that information with known facts, including the weather conditions, the time of day and the turkey’s location, we’re hoping to get a better insight into what makes turkeys gobble, and what conditions trigger a turkey’s gobble – new information we’ve never had previously.

“Sometimes observers will be at the locations where the radioed turkeys are showing-up. By watching the birds with binoculars, they’ll gather even more information from their visual sightings to learn what makes turkeys gobble. This very-intensive study has the potential to tell us more about where turkeys go and when and why they gobble when they get there than any information we’ve ever gathered. In another part of this study, researchers are flushing these turkeys late in the evening and recording their gobbling the next morning to see how disturbing a turkey before he goes to his roost affects how much he gobbles the next morning. We hope to add tremendously to our knowledge of wild turkeys from this study.”

Tomorrow: The Role that Habitat and Predators Play in Turkey-Nesting Success

Check back each day this week for more about "The Latest Turkey Research"

Day 1: The Importance of Turkey Bands
Day 2: Texas Turkeys, and Turkeys and Grape Vines
Day 3: Gobbler Kidnappers
Day 4: The Role that Habitat and Predators Play in Turkey-Nesting Success
Day 5: The American Chestnut



Entry 395, Day 3