John's Journal...

The Latest Turkey Research

The Importance of Turkey Bands

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: What have scientists learned about turkeys and turkey habitat that can help us understand turkeys better, learn how to provide better habitat for them and find out why and when they gobble? State conservation agencies across the United States currently have conducted research projects in these areas with the help of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), the federal government and other conservation organizations. To learn the latest information, we’ve talked with Tom Hughes, senior wildlife biologist for the NWTF (

How long does a turkey band stay on a turkey’s leg? According to HugheClick to enlarges, statistical information about turkeys, including how long they live, how far they travel, and how many hunters harvest toms directly relates to the bands on turkeys’ legs. The states of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio have conducted an intensive ongoing study to determine how long a turkey band will remain on a turkey’s leg, and what type of band material will keep the bands from coming off the turkeys’ legs accidentally as they cross various terrains. Biologists have made double-banding 300 gobblers in each state their goals. A third to 1/2 of these double-banded gobblers will have a reward band as well as a test band on their legs with the reward band worth $100 to $150 for the hunter who turns in the band. The first phase of this study plans to determine gobbler mortality and the number of bands turned-in by hunters who take turkeys. The turkey’s reward band’s attached with small rivets to mClick to enlargeake sure the turkeys can’t lose it. The other band’s made of aluminum or another material, much like a duck band.

“We believe that a turkey with a $100 to a $150 band attached to its leg will be reported by almost 100% of the turkey hunters who take them,” Hughes says. “Of the
300-banded turkeys per state, 150 of them will have reward bands on them, and 150 birds won’t. We want to know what percentage of hunters will turn in the bands from turkeys without rewards attached. Then we can get more-accurate data on how many turkeys harvested with bands we can expect to be reported. Once this study ends, we’ll have a good idea of what reporting rates we can expect when we band turkeys for scientific studies like mortality and other scientific information we want to gather.” Click to enlarge

This banding study also will aid scientists in learning how many of the banded turkeys hunters harvested, and how many of the banded turkeys died of natural mortality. Without knowing how many hunters will turn in bands without rewards attached to them, how many bands the turkeys have lost, and what materials work best for making turkey bands, scientists may assume that certain turkeys have died of natural mortality, when in fact these turkeys have just lost their bands, or hunters haven’t reported taking the gobblers by turning in the bands.

If you’re hunting in New York, Pennsylvania and/or Ohio this year, please turn in any bands, and tell the conservation officer where you’ve taken the turkey. Preliminary results have indicated that bands have fallen off turkeys’ legs at a much-higher rate – 16 to 18 percent - than the scientists previously have assumed.

Tomorrow: Texas Turkeys, and Turkeys and Grape Vines

Check back each day this week for more about "The Latest Turkey Research"

Day 1: The Importance of Turkey Bands
Day 2: Texas Turkeys, and Turkeys and Grape Vines
Day 3: Gobbler Kidnappers
Day 4: The Role that Habitat and Predators Play in Turkey-Nesting Success
Day 5: The American Chestnut



Entry 395, Day 1