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2010 Winter Flock Survey Results

The goal of the Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey is to use DEC staff and volunteers to conduct a harvest-independent survey to help determine long-term trends in turkey populations and to provide information to the public regarding the prospects for the spring hunting season. The survey period ran from January 1, 2010 through March 31, 2010 and was open to both DEC staff and the general public. Survey participants were instructed to record flock observations any time during the three-month survey period, but to report each flock observed only once.

We received 785 reports totaling about 13,200 birds (Table 1) from 50 of New York State's 62 counties (about 16 flocks reported/county, range 1-145/county). This is an increase of 15% from winter 2009, but there was a 10% decrease in the average number of birds per flock (19 in winter 2009 vs. 17 in winter 2010). Six of the 12 counties with no reported observations were Nassau County in western Long Island, and the five counties that comprise New York City. Lack of observations from these 12 counties is not necessarily indicative of turkey population size in these areas. Flock observations and the number of birds observed peaked during the third week of January, were relatively stable from the end of January through early March, and then declined as flocks broke up in mid to late March.

Overall, statewide temperatures and snowfall were close to long-term averages. January and February temperatures were close to normal, but March was about 6°F above normal. Snowfall was quite variable across the state. The New York City/Long Island area received snowfall totals well above normal, while most other regions were at or below normal even with the blizzard that dropped 5-6 feet of snow in some areas during late February. The average snow depth reported by survey participants was 7 inches, and the average temperature was 30°F.

The Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) aggregates with the highest turkey densities (birds/mi2 of habitat, where "habitat" is defined as all wooded upland habitats, but does not include agriculture, developed areas, or open water) were the East Ontario Plain (2.6 birds/mi2) in northern New York, followed by the West Appalachian Hills (1.8 birds/mi2), Great Lakes Plain (1.5 birds/mi2), North Appalachian Plateau (1.0 birds/mi2), and Oneida Lake Plains (1.0 birds/mi2) in the western part of the state (Table 3, Figure 2). When flock observations are grouped by fall season zone, the highest turkey density was observed in the Appalachian Hills & Plateau (1.3 birds/mi2), followed by the Lake Plains (1.0 bird/mi2), St. Lawrence Valley (0.8 birds/mi2), East-Central NY (0.4 birds/mi2), Long Island (0.2 birds/mi2), and Adirondacks-Tug Hill (0.1 birds/mi2) season zones (Table 4).

Turkeys spent a disproportionate amount of time in agricultural habitats (pasture, hay, row crops) relative to the abundance of this habitat type on the landscape (Table 5). Human-created habitats such as lawns, backyards, parks, and golf courses also played an important role for winter turkey flocks, particularly in the Adirondacks-Tug Hill region. Some researchers feel these human-altered landscapes have allowed turkey populations to persist in areas such as the Adirondacks where historically they did not exist.

Table 1. Summary of Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey Results, 2005-06 through 2010.
2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2009a 2010a 4-year Average
(2005-06 - 2009)
# Observations 481 1,074 640 681 785 719
Avg. # Observations/County 8 18 11 13 16 13
# Turkeys Observed 20,081 28,013 18,641 12,606 13,151 19,835
# Flocks Observed 588 1,145 733 681 785 787
Avg. # Turkeys/Flock 34 24 25 19 17 26

a During the three-year pilot study (2005-06 - 2007-08) observations were compiled from December through March, annually, and observations of all flocks were accepted without regard to multiple reports of the same flock. During winters 2009 and 2010, the survey was conducted from January through March only, and survey participants were instructed to report each flock observed only once.

Table 2. Wild turkeys observed by DEC Region from the Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey, 2010.
DEC Region a # Flocks Observed # Wild Turkeys Observed # of Birds/Flock Birds/habitat mi.2 b
Region 1 2 43 22 0.16
Region 3 25 199 8 0.06
Region 4 115 2,091 18 0.57
Region 5 39 426 11 0.07
Region 6 107 1,663 16 0.31
Region 7 73 1,718 24 0.62
Region 8 89 1,658 19 0.68
Region 9 335 5,353 16 1.77

a A map depicting DEC Regions is available here. DEC Region 2 includes all 5 boroughs of New York City. There were no reports received from this region during winter 2010.
b Square miles of habitat includes wooded habitats, but does not include agriculture, open water, or developed areas (based on 2001 MRLC data).

Table 3. Wild turkeys observed by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) Aggregate from the Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey, 2010.
WMU Aggregate ID # a # Flocks Observed # Wild Turkeys Observed # of Birds/Flock Birds/habitat mi.2 b
Catskills 18 32 556 17 0.25
Central Adirondacks 5 13 118 9 0.02
Central Appalachian Plateau 15 16 199 12 0.20
Champlain Valley & Transition 2 17 105 6 0.07
Coastal Lowlands 23 2 43 22 0.15
East Appalachian Plateau 16 32 930 29 0.49
East Ontario Plain 4 40 716 18 2.58
Great Lakes Plain 8 69 1,350 20 1.47
Hudson Valley 19 43 478 11 0.34
Mohawk Valley 11 23 346 15 0.52
Neversink-Mongaup Hills 21 9 83 9 0.11
New York City Transition 22 1 6 6 0.02
North Appalachian Hills 13 80 1,338 17 1.03
North Taconic Highlands 12 5 133 27 0.23
Northern Adirondacks 3 8 164 21 0.09
Oneida Lake Plains 10 38 702 18 1.02
Oswego Lowlands 9 10 196 20 0.81
Otsego-Delaware Hills 17 37 817 22 0.71
South Taconic Highlands 20 4 52 13 0.10
St. Lawrence Valley 1 36 561 16 0.42
Tug Hill 6 2 16 8 0.05
Tug Hill Transition 7 11 138 13 0.18
West Appalachian Hills 14 257 4,104 16 1.84

a Identification number applies to Figure 1 (see below).
b Square miles of habitat includes wooded habitats, but does not include agriculture, open water, or developed areas (based on 2001 MRLC data).

Table 4. Wild turkeys observed by fall season zone from the Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey, 2010.
Fall Season Zone # Flocks Observed # Wild Turkeys Observed # Birds/Flock Birds/habitat mi.2 a
Eastern Long Island
(1 week-1 bird)
2 43 22 0.18
Lake Plains
(2 weeks-1 bird)
79 1,546 20 0.98
Adirondacks-Tug Hill
(3 weeks-1 bird)
51 541 11 0.06
St. Lawrence Valley
(3 weeks-2 birds)
76 1,277 17 0.79
Appalachian Hills &
Plateau (4 weeks-1 bird)
353 5,641 16 1.25
East & Central New York
(7 weeks-2 birds)
224 4,103 18 0.42

a Square miles of habitat includes wooded habitats, but does not include agriculture, open water, or developed areas (based on 2001 MRLC data).

Table 5. Percent of the flocks observed in each habitat type within fall season zone and the percent of each habitat type within fall season zone
Fall Season Zone Woodland
% Flock Obs.
% Woodland
Habitat
Pasture/Hay/Crop
% Flock Obs.
% Pasture/Hay/Crop
Habitat
Park/G. Course/Lawn
% Flock Obs.
% Park/G. Course/Lawn
Habitat
Other
% Flock Obs.
% Other
Habitat
Eastern Long Island
(1 week-1 bird)
50% 25% 0% 10% 50% 43% 0% 22%
Lake Plains (2 weeks-1 bird) 3% 27% 81% 47% 12% 12% 5% 14%
Adirondacks-Tug Hill
(3 weeks-1 bird)
36% 75% 38% 6% 24% 2% 2% 17%
St. Lawrence Valley
(3 weeks-2 birds)
17% 43% 63% 31% 15% 4% 5% 22%
Appalachian Hills & Plateau
(4 weeks-1 bird)
18% 55% 68% 33% 9% 5% 5% 7%
East & Central New York
(7 weeks-2 birds)
18% 54% 61% 26% 18% 8% 3% 11%

Winter Flock Survey - Turkeys/Sqare Mile 2010

Figure 1. Estimated density of wild turkeys (birds/habitat mi2) in Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) Aggregates from the Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey 2010. "High" (>1 bird/habitat mi2), "Medium" (0.50-0.99 birds/habitat mi2), and "Low" (<0.50 birds/habitat mi2) densities based on number of birds observed and estimates of habitat area within each WMU Aggregate. For WMU Aggregate names see "ID #" in Table 3. "Habitat" includes all wooded upland habitats, but does not include agricultural habitats, open water, or developed areas (based on 2001 MRLC data).