U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Published in The Prairie Naturalist 28(4): December 1996.


We studied microhabitats of Merriam's turkey (Meleagris gallopavo merriami) brood hens in a ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) ecosystem in South Dakota from 1986 to 1988. Cluster analysis indicated three groups of microhabitats, open-shrub, open-grass/forb and forest, based on vegetation characteristics at sites selected by brood hens. Poults of brood hen that selected open-shrub microhabitats were younger than those that selected forest microhabitats. Open-shrub and open grass/forb microhabitats had high herbaceous cover. Herbaceous vegetation provides habitat for invertebrates required in diets of poults and was selected by brood hens for feeding. Brood hens selected forest microhabitats more often when temperatures were high, or when precipitation and herbaceous biomass was low. Management for Merriam's turkeys should ensure 126 g/m2 of herbaceous vegetation along forest/meadow edges until poults are more than seven weeks old.