Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer ruminations on winter's impact

I might not have seen many fawns this summer, but I sure am seeing a lot of turkey poults. I found another brood of them, this group not far from my cabin. The brood was 6-7; the babies still quite small. They, mom and an "auntie" were taking a dirt bath at the very edge of the road. I stopped the car and they soon scurried back into the woods.
Turkey broods appear variably, with the severity of the winter a determining factor. One PA study showed that egg incubation after one cold and snowy winter (1999) didn’t begin until around May 15. During more typical winters, incubation begins around April 28. The hens incubate the eggs for 28 days. As I am only just now starting to see the poults, I would not be surprised if the hens didn’t begin incubation until roughly the end of May. The younger hens typically don’t start to incubate until a week or so after the mature hens.
None of the poults I’ve seen over the past week flew, though young turkeys can fly a bit within about 10 days. I suppose that just because I didn’t see any of them flying that doesn’t mean for sure that they couldn’t fly, but I can say the birds were quite small and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were under 10 days old.
So in doing the math, I’m going to say that the small brood I saw on Saturday was just 10 days old, which would make them hatched on July 9. That would mean incubation for this brood began around June 10-11. That is very late, and also suggests both hens I saw were younger birds, who would have started incubation later anyway.

Certainly 2013-14 was a colder winter than 1999, when the turkey nesting study was done. So it is likely that nesting for turkeys was even later this year than then. The little ones should still have ample time grow and ready themselves for this upcoming winter. Poults gain weight quickly and by the time they are seven months old will weigh 8-12.5 lbs depending on gender. Still, with nesting coming so late this spring, another tough winter in the upcoming season wouldn’t do the species any good locally. Winter is tough enough on the younger ones, let alone poults that may be as much as a month younger when winter arrives than is typical.


Scott said...

I saw my first two "fawns" this morning when I went out to open the gate at my preserve at 6:30 a.m. They were twins accompanying their mother. I put "fawns" in quotation marks because these young'uns had already lost their spots and were fairly large.

Carolyn H said...

The "fawn" I saw last week still had spots, but it was already pretty big. I thought they didn't lose their spots until they got their first winter coat

Pablo said...

This seems to be the year for bunnies in suburban Kansas City. They're everywhere.

Sharkbytes said...

Haven't kept track, but it seems like I see young turkeys quite late.

Scott said...

Carolyn: I want to partially retract my earlier comment. I have seen the doe with her fawns again, and they DO still have spots. The light must have been bad when I saw the fawns earlier this week, and I didn't see the spots. (Keep me honest!)