Prescribed Fire Research to Produce Better Nesting Sites for Your Birds

We know two things:

  1. Good nesting and brood-rearing habitat is important to wild turkey productivity and population growth.
  2. The most effective and cost efficient method of providing this critical young growth, or early successional, habitat is through prescribed fire.

Six things we have learned from several research projects:

1. Wild turkey hens that had their home range affected by a fire, usually won’t leave the area. This may be a real problem in large scale fires, since the hens will nest in the area, even if the cover is poor, often resulting in poor nest success.

2. Growing season fires are better than dormant season fires at reducing woody vegetation and promoting grass and forb growth which attracts large numbers of insects for poults. However, dormant season burns are also beneficial because there is more time for vegetative cover to grow therefore producing better nest concealment.

3. Small scale fires (100-200 acres burned) compared to fires of a larger scale (500-5,000 acres burned) have higher nesting success overall.

4. In Ozark National Forest areas with prescribed burns, hens selected low areas or other unburned patches including nest sites with high visual concealment, steep slope and woody ground cover.

5. Burning too frequently in the same area will likely result in reduced nesting cover and lower nesting success.

6. In North Carolina, growing season burns had a minimal direct effect on nest survival but continued growing season burns may have a negative effect on cover, a combination of dormant and growing season burns may produce the best results.

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