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Summer Turkey Sighting Survey Results 2010

DEC conducts the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey annually during the month of August to estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide and among major geographic regions of the State. This index allows us to gauge reproductive success in a given year and allows us to predict fall harvest potential. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival.

In 2010, there were 445 usable records of hen-flocks. This is similar to 2009 (441), but is below the 10-year average for hen-flocks observed (594). Reproductive success from the 2010 survey was about 2.6 poults/hen. This is an increase of about 13% from 2009 (2.3 poults/hen), but is still below the 10-year average (3.1 poults/hen; Figure 1). After three years of average to above-average production (2005, 2007-08), this is the second consecutive year with poor production. About 21% of the hen-flocks observed did not have poults (vs. 24% in 2009 and 18% in 2009). This is an improvement from last summer, but is still worse than the 10-year average for "barren" hen-flocks (19%). Production was below average across the state with the exception of DEC Regions 4 and 5 (3.2 and 3.3 poults/hen, respectively; Table 1).

Poor reproductive success in many regions may be a result of above-average rainfall in May and June (the critical nesting period for turkeys); however, in 2010 there was quite a bit of variation in rainfall between May and June. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate that from April 1 through the end of May, average rainfall was about 1.5 inches below normal statewide, and rainfall was below normal in every WMU aggregate in the state, ranging from about ¼-inch below normal in the Oswego Lowlands to almost 5 inches below normal in the Central Adirondacks (see Figure 2 for WMU aggregates referred to here). Rainfall amounts rebounded in June with several aggregates in central and western New York receiving above average rainfall. This increase in rain may have negatively impacted nest and brood success in these areas. It is important to note that turkeys in areas with favorable weather may still experience low nest and brood success due to poor habitat quantity and quality on a local (e.g., lack of brood-rearing habitat) or landscape (e.g., poor interspersion of agricultural habitats) scale.

Based on poor production during summer 2009, and slightly improved but still below-average production during 2010, we anticipate that the fall 2010 harvest will be similar to last year and below the ten-year average (about 14,500 birds). Furthermore, areas with good mast production will present another challenge to hunters. In years where there is abundant hard and soft mast, turkeys do not have to roam as far to locate food, thus they are less vulnerable to harvest.

Poults per Hen from the Summer Sighting Survey and Fall Harvest

Figure 1. An index of wild turkey productivity (poults/hen) in New York State from the Summer Sighting Survey (1996-2010) and the fall turkey harvest (1986-2009). Dashed lines represent the 10 and 20-year average poult:hen ratio for the Summer Sighting Survey and fall harvest, respectively.

Table 1. An index of wild turkey productivity (poults/hen) by DEC Region from the Summer Sighting Survey, 2005-10.
DEC Regiona 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 5-year Avg. (2005-09)
Region 1 & 2 5.1 1.5 4.4 3.8 1.2 1.2 3.2
Region 3 3.1 2.8 2.5 3.5 2.5 2.2 2.9
Region 4 4.1 3.4 4.4 3.7 3.5 3.2 3.8
Region 5 2.5 1.5 3.2 1.9 2.1 3.3 2.2
Region 6 3.0 2.1 2.9 2.6 2.0 2.3 2.5
Region 7 4.5 3.0 4.5 3.1 2.2 3.0 3.4
Region 8 3.5 3.2 3.2 3.3 3.1 2.5 3.3
Region 9 4.0 4.3 3.0 3.3 1.9 3.0 3.3
Statewide Average 3.7 2.7 3.5 3.1 2.3 2.6 3.1

a View map of DEC regions.

Table 2. Wild turkeys observed by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) Aggregate from the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey, 2010.
WMU Aggregate # Hen-Flocks Observed Poults/Hen
Champlain Valley & Transition


Central Adirondacks 22 3.3
Northern Adirondacks 7 3.3
Tug Hill n/a n/a
Tug Hill Transition 14 2.9
St. Lawrence Valley 41 1.5
East Ontario Plain 29 2.8
Oswego Lowlands 5 1.8
Great Lakes Plain 27 2.1
Oneida Lake Plains 23 2.5
Central Appalachian Plateau 8 3.2
East Appalachian Plateau 29 3.4
North Appalachian Hills 12 2.6
West Appalachian Hills 54 3.2
Otsego-Delaware Hills 16 3.0
Catskills 33 2.7
Neversink-Mongaup Hills 10 0.9
Mohawk Valley 16 4.0
Hudson Valley 69 2.7
North Taconic Highlands n/a n/a
South Taconic Highlands 6 3.5
New York City Transition 3 5.0
Coastal Lowlands 14 1.2

a Identification number applies to Figure 2 (see below).

Poults per Hen by WMU Aggregate from the 2010 Summer Sighting Survey

Figure 2. Poults/Hen in various WMU aggregates of New York State from the Summer Sighting Survey, 2010. Statewide average poults/hen was 2.6 (n=445). Poult/hen calculations based on number of hen-flocks observed in each aggregate (see Table 2). Aggregates in gray had no observations reported; this is sampling artifact and is not indicative of production in these areas.