North Georgia Wildlife Part 2 (Wild Turkeys)
North Georgia Wildlife Part 2
There are 5 species of wild Turkey in North America however, the eastern wild turkey is the only one found in the North Georgia mountains. Wild Turkeys travel in small flocks. For most of the year they are single-sex flocks. Females are with females, males are with males and young turkeys follow their mothers. Male turkey’s spend the winter in what are known as bachelor flocks. As most of you know Spring is breeding time for most animals and the wild turkey is no exception. Adult males known as toms or gobblers, will disperse after the winter and establish a dominance hierarchy, and begin to strut and gobble in an effort to attract hens for mating. This usually begins in March, but can start in late-February or early-April. Hunting season is also in the spring. For 2015 it runs from March 21- May 15 as it is an excellent time to harvest a gobbler. Gobblers readily respond to the yelping of a proficient caller and are ready, willing, and able as this might be the tom’s last chance to mate until next spring. Juvenile males, known as jakes, will also strut and gobble but are less successful at courting hens unless there is a shortage of mature males. Unlike young males most hens will breed and nest in their first breeding season. When the breeding season comes to an end, usually in April, hens construct ground nests and begin laying eggs. Once laying is complete incubation begins and usually lasts about 28 days.
Gobbling and strutting activity usually increase during incubation as toms try to locate unmated hens.
Identification of the sexes is important because only male turkeys may be legally harvested in Georgia. Adult male turkeys usually weigh 17-21lbs with black tipped breast feathers, projection hair like on their breast called a beard, spurs on their lower legs and a white crown. An adult make usually has a beard of at least 6 inches. Hens usually weigh 8-11 pounds and have rounded buff breast feathers giving them a brown or tan coloration. The female turkey’s head lacks the white crown of the gobbler and is a dull gray-blue with feathers extending up the neck and back of head. Female turkeys can have beards that are usually less than 7 inches, but this only occurs in less than 30 percent of the population and unlike toms, hens usually do not have spurs.
Wild Turkeys live in open woodlands and forests with lots of clearings and meadows. At night they roost in trees especially oaks and pines for protection. During the day they travel and look for food. Wild Turkeys eat a great variety of foods, including: insects, spiders, snails, slugs, salamanders, small lizards, small frogs, millipedes, grasshoppers, very small snakes, worms, grasses, vines, flowers, acorns, buds, seeds, fruits, clovers, dogwood, blueberries, cherries, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and other vegetation.