Merriam’s Turkey Habitat


Merriam’s turkeys are found living in a variety of western areas ranging from sparsely timbered prairies and grasslands to scrub-oak habitat and pine foothills and mountains. Many Merriam’s flocks are loosely migratory, living up near snow-capped peaks in spring and summer and moving miles to lower elevations in fall and winter. In the southwest, most Merriam’s turkeys roost in ponderosa pines on the sides of steep, rocky canyons. North and east-facing slopes found near creeks seem to be preferred by this turkey subspecies. Like the eastern turkey, Merriam’s turkey often roost on points and knolls below ridgelines.

In Montana, South Dakota, and other upper western states, Merriam’s turkeys roost in pine trees scattered across the grasslands and plains. On the easternmost edge of their range, for example in eastern Nebraska, hens and gobblers roost in hardwood trees like their Eastern turkey cousins. Turkey subspecies are characterized more by the habitats they use than their behavior–because all turkey subspecies act very similar even though the structural components of the habitat they use are different.

Hens feed and nest in canyon bottomlands and grasslands near scrub-oak thickets. Once or twice a day in arid regions, hens, poults, and toms head for water. In the spring, gobblers strut for hens in mountain meadows or grasslands near ponderosa roosts. On the eastern fringes of their habitat, toms display in oak flats, fields and logging roads like the eastern subspecies. Habitat used by Merriam’s turkey is not threatened because development of the rugged landscape they use is difficult. But even with this fact, the best turkey management practice for this species would be to protect necessary habitat.

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Turkey Hunting and Management