Incubation recess behaviors influence nest survival of Wild Turkeys

  • October 11, 2019
  • by Bakner, N. W., Schofield, L. R., Cedotal, C., Chamberlain, M. J., & Collier, B. A.

In ground nesting upland birds, reproductive activities contribute to elevated predation risk, so females presumably use multiple strategies to ensure nest success. Identification of drivers reducing predation risk has primarily focused on evaluating vegetative conditions at nest sites, but behavioral decisions manifested through movements during incubation may be additional drivers of nest survival. However, our understanding of how movements during incubation impact nest survival is limited for most ground nesting birds. Using GPS data collected from female Eastern Wild Turkeys (n = 206), we evaluated nest survival as it relates to movement behaviors during incubation, including recess frequency, distance traveled during recesses, and habitat selection during recess movements. We identified 9,361 movements off nests and 6,529 recess events based on approximately 62,065 hr of incubation data, and estimated mean nest attentiveness of 84.0%. The numbers of recesses taken daily were variable across females (range: 1‒7). Nest survival modeling indicated that increased cumulative distance moved during recesses each day was the primary driver of positive daily nest survival. Our results suggest behavioral decisions are influencing trade-offs between nest survival and adult female survival during incubation to reduce predation risk, specifically through adjustments to distances traveled during recesses.