Rio Grande Turkey Food Habits

The Rio Grande wild turkey’s annual diet, based on volume, consists of 36% grasses, 29% invertebrates (insects), 19% mast, and 16% forbs. Rio Grande wild turkey are opportunistic foragers and use food items based on their seasonal availability. Because this turkey subspecies has such a huge range, the number of plant species they forage on is diverse. Rio Grande turkey feed on a variety of mast, consisting of pecans, acorns, and mesquite beans. In addition, they use fruits and tubers such as grapes, berries, and wild onion. They also use green foliage (grass and forbs) and seeds (such as grama and dropseed) as available.

Invertebrates have long been noted as a valuable protein resource for turkey poults and comprise the majority of their post-hatch diet during the first several weeks. In fact, research has found that brood survival and insect abundance were greater on areas where stable numbers of Rio Grande turkeys than on areas with declining turkey numbers. Insect consumption by wild turkeys occurs year-round by all age groups with peak use periods during the spring and summer, when insect abundance is highest. Before and during the nesting season, reproductively active hens increase their insect and snail consumption for additonal protein and calcium resources.

Supplemental feeding of Rio Grande wild turkeys can take a wide variety of forms. However, it is important to recognize that supplemental feeding is not and should not substitute for habitat management practices, regardless of property size. Speculation occurs as to whether Rio Grande wild turkeys are food-limited where long growing seasons combined with moderate winters and active supplemental feeding for deer is conducted. Nevertheless, feeders that concentrate turkeys increase the opportunity of disease and parasite transmission and make them more vulnerable to predation. Mycotoxins present in feed and feeders can be detrimental to both target and non-target animals. As such, both feeder and food plot locations should be moved frequently to reduce dependence and opportunity of disease transmission.

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Turkey Hunting and Management