When do Turkey’s nest in Wisconsin? One of the questions many hunters are asking, and you can understand why after the below average temperatures we’ve been having this spring many days of snowfall and freezing rain.
How will the weather affect the wild turkey’s nesting schedule?
Many studies have found wild turkey breeding depends on photoperiodism, the length of day. This year the wild turkeys have been mating as they usually do. However, most
hunters think breeding has not been taking place because the turkeys are still flocked up, and they have been quieter this spring. A lot less gobbling than usual. Perhaps the lack of turkeys calling is due to the turkeys feeding in close proximity to each other. There are fewer feeding areas this spring because of the snow and ice cover, meaning there is no need to call to each other when they can see each other; also makes the turkeys harder to call in using the traditional calling methods. (soft hen yelps)
Just because a hen has mated does not mean she is on a schedule to lay her eggs by any given date. When a gobbler mates with a hen his sperm travels into the hen’s oviduct and remains in there in the infundibulum, sometimes referred to as “sperm nests” areas that collect and store semen for later fertilization of the turkey’s eggs. Apparently, this a built in survival strategy to assure the production of a series of fertile hatching eggs even after the male is not available or lost interest. No one knows for sure how long the sperm remains viable, but it’s commonly thought it remains fertile for a couple of months or more providing the hen with ultimate control of the egg laying timing.
Traditionally, a spring with the typical weather, peak egg laying occurs the last week of April. However, in cold and wet years egg laying is delayed. But what is the trigger for egg laying? Light – certainly plays a role but no hen is going to make a snow nest. Research on this is not available anywhere I searched, even Google Scholar did find any studies on this. Perhaps someone has the answer buried in a dusty file somewhere. So, for now, I will speculate.
My good friend treerooster brought up an idea that very well could be the answer; that is, ground temperature. Farmers and gardeners use soil temps to determine when to plant what seed. It makes a lot of sense that certain wild plants will emerge at the correct soil temperatures. Are some of these emerging plants the trigger? Consider, those plants are known to provide the necessary food for the newly hatched poults. Are some springtime plants the signal of the next insect hatch? Does the hen turkey sense the temperature through her feet or body?
I could find no research done on this potential correlation. So we need to do some observing and recording to uncover the connection.
For what it’s worth my prediction – turkey nesting is going to be taking place much later this year. Mid May through June.
did you get an answer to your question?
My two hens are laying however its too cold for the eggs to survive overnight – well, to my mind anyway.
I have been collecting the eggs hoping they will continue to lay until the overnight weather warms up – say two weeks. then I’ll be happy for them to lay a full clutch and brood away
Thoughts ? This is my first year at this….. any comments appreciated
Oh yes, we’re in Australia so it’s spring is just starting with birds building nests etc
charlie elk says
Our wild turkeys here in Wisconsin, U.S.A. are getting ready to face autumn and then soon to be winter. A few weeks ago my turkey dog Vic and I found numerous freshly hatched turkeys. Seems quite late in the nesting season for new hatches?!
My son found a hen on 12 eggs today, so much for late nesting! 1 st. Of May gobbles off roost then quiet in rain
We are in SW Wisconsin
charlie elk says
Thanks for the report, it’s good news.
Same here with gobbling, lots of it right away then silence after fly down. The hens are running to the toms right after they fly down. As of May 2 breeding is in full swing here in central WI.
Katie Steele says
Thank you for this information. Yesterday (4/23/16), while walking through our woods, I came across a hen who I believe was nesting, I was tossing apples, celery, and old “salad” out in our back lot (as we do all year; something always eats it). And I am searching on line to find out what they like to eat and when the eggs will hatch. Re., calcium sources, do you think the hens would eat egg shells from hard boiled eggs (i.e., I wouldn’t want to pass on disease by giving them raw chicken shells)? Other than that, they will have plenty of acorns, hickory nuts, and maple seedlings. We moved to this property in SE, WI, a bit over a year ago and we sure have loved watching them nest higher up in trees than we ever through possible; this is a “new” bird for us to be watching in the “yard”. We look forward to learning more about these beautiful birds. They did an awesome job of cleaning up the Halloween pumpkins and squash over winter; leaving only the thin layer of shell and cleaning up under our many bird feeders…Our large dogs have not scared them off; perhaps they recognize that they are always behind a fence!
Katie, thanks for your comment. On 4/23 I found 3 different turkey nests each had 6 eggs, the hens will likely lay a few more before sitting. I don’t think turkeys eat eggshells but many refer to them as feathered goats so who knows. Although with last year’s bird flu epidemic introducing chicken eggshells into wild is not advisable.
Egg Saver says
Katie Steele please don’t throw garbage out, especially where hens are nesting. The refuse will attract predators like raccoons, opossums, foxes, crows, turtles and snakes that will eat turkey eggs.
Leopold studied nests in the late 30’s and early 40’s, from VA to MO, he refers to Mosby and Handley’s earlier research on photoperiodicity.
The Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative says turkey Nesting Dates:
Eggs: early April through late May; incubation lasts 25-29 days and hatching occurs from early May through late June.
The life cycle of turkeys is driven by the length of the day. The life cycle of insects is keyed not to changes in sunlight, but to the air temperature. As springtime temperatures rise earlier every year, the insects may be hatching out before the poults can benefit. Two life cycles, one driven by temperature and the other by light, are at risk of decoupling.
From Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation
2nd last row in the left column: http://www.turkeydog.org/books.html
From my observations over the last decade, it seems that ground and water temperatures have more effect than the length of day or just the air temps. Air temps can change drastically from day to day compared to ground and water temps which are more stable. I carry an instant read thermometer to check these temps as I hunt and scout in the early spring. The early nests that I locate are always on the warmer ground and if water is present, near the warmest water.
Joe Gonzalez says
I frequently see wild turkeys running around our neighborhood in Mequon wisconsin. I would like to see them nest near my home.
Do the wild birds use nesting boxes? If so, what are box specs? Where should they be located? At what time of year?
Ground nesting or elevated in trees?
Any information would be appropriated
Wild turkeys do not use nesting boxes; they nest on the ground. The number one defense against predators turkeys have is their eyesight, generally hens nest in the open where they have good visibility. I find most turkey nest at the base of large trees in open-parklike woodlands or along the edges of “whispy” fields. Hens rarely nest in thick grass, alfalfa or dense brush as this type of cover limits her ability to see incoming predators. Nearby roosting trees are a plus because as the hen lays her eggs over a series of days she flys up to roost each night until incubation starts.
To encourage turkeys to nest on my property, I either cut brush to clear out the understory or use Garlon 4 in a kill stick to kill the brush and leave it standing. The dead brush, in my area honeysuckle, will not grow leaves thus allowing the hen to see an incoming danger.