Date of Award:

5-1969

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Allen W. Stokes

Abstract

This study is of the social organization of the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia Sennett) on the Welder Wildlife Refuge in southern Texas.

The earliest turkey nests hatched in April, with the peak of hatching a month or more later. These poults may remain with their mother until winter. This brood flock, however, often combined with other brood flocks to form composite brood flocks when the poults were a few weeks old. Hens not successful in rearing young combined into broodless flocks.

The juvenile males left the brood flocks in late fall or winter. They remained a distinct unit, the sibling group. These sibling groups attempted to join adult male flocks which were composed of older sibling groups. Most often the juvenile sibling groups were forced to join others their own age to form juvenile male winter flocks. Female flocks, after losing their juvenile males, combined with other female flocks to form large bands of up to 200 females.

In spring the adult male flocks split into sibling groups for breeding. The sibling groups joined the female bands on display grounds. Only the dominant male of the dominant sibling group mated while hens were on the display ground. Later in the breeding season the female bands split into their flocks and returned to former nesting areas. Resident flocks continued to use the display ground, but later broke up into nesting groups of 2-5 females localized near their nests. The male sibling groups accompanied the females from the display ground, but did not become territorial. Incubation or nest loss broke down the female nesting group. This in turn led to formation of brood flocks or broodless flocks of hens.

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