Gobbling Up Habitat? Impact of Wild Turkeys on Native Bird Habitat Selection

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The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is an invasive species currently causing heated debate in California. Not only is there a question as to whether or not the bird is actually invasive, as a very similar species of wild turkey was present in California about 10,000 years ago, but there is considerable dissent over whether or not turkeys actually cause any ecological damage. I conducted this study under the auspices of the California State Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) in order to address the potential impact of wild turkeys on habitat selection in native ground-dwelling avifauna, using the California quail (Callipepla californica) as the basis for comparison. Results show that both turkeys and quail are significantly selective about their preferred habitat types (p < .01). Results also demonstrate that turkeys and quail are coexisting within the same macrohabitat types without significant detrimental effects on either bird. The birds utilize very different microhabitat types, and given the size difference between them, it is highly unlikely that turkeys will begin to occupy the dense, bushy vegetation preferred by quail. Turkeys also appear to have narrower preferences for both microhabitat and macrohabitat than quail, and are therefore limited in the areas they can colonize. There is a great deal of dietary overlap, however both birds have such diverse feeding preferences that barring any extraordinary environmental disasters, it is also unlikely that turkeys will monopolize available food sources.





Gillingham, Angela (2008). Gobbling Up Habitat? Impact of Wild Turkeys on Native Bird Habitat Selection. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/538.

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