NWTF Project Biologist Kristen Giger knows firsthand just how important nesting and brood-rearing habitat is for upland birds, especially when it comes to wild turkeys. Major habitat loss and destruction due to rapid human development and expansion take an immense toll on wildlife. Carefully planned and executed projects that provide, create and enhance wildlife habitat are crucial.
The NWTF relished an opportunity to improve nesting habitat within the Allegheny National Forest in Warren County, Pennsylvania. According to Giger, the large grassland restoration project was part of the Bob’s Fork Stewardship Agreement between the Allegheny National Forest and the NWTF. The 100-acre grassland is surrounded by blacktop roads, woods and river.
“In an area where quality nesting habitat is lacking on the landscape, a project of this nature can have a tremendously positive impact on nesting success and recruitment (juveniles that survive to adulthood and reproduce) in the area. The work includes girdling black locust tress, conducting aspen regeneration cuts and daylighting fruit-bearing trees. This particular project also involved planting native warm-season grasses, wildflowers and clover,” Giger said.
Daylighting refers to creating space around beneficial trees to allow them access to more sunlight, expand their crowns and produce more fruit. Giger believes that process will benefit turkeys along with the creation of thick slash-covered areas as aspens are cut.
“All of this work will provide great nest concealment and escape cover for vulnerable poults adjacent to quality brood-rearing habitat,” Giger said. “Higher quality habitat means better nesting success rates. Better nesting success ultimately leads to better recruitment. Better recruitment translates to better hunting opportunities for all of us who enjoy the natural thrill of a turkey hunt.”