Habitat sampling can allow much more effective habitat selection for longterm activities such as nesting and may be directly linked to fitness. We studied the process of habitat sampling and selection in female Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in the Arkansas Ozarks. In particular, we tested the prediction that movements prior to selecting nesting habitat correlate with the quality of selected habitat. Our results supported the prediction that greater habitat sampling (as reflected by greater area covered prior to nesting) allows acquisition of better nesting habitat; greater movements were correlated with choice of better nesting sites with more cover that allow higher nest survival. Attributes of individual birds and habitat dispersion influenced movement patterns and access to quality habitats. In addition, extent of habitat sampling early in the season correlated with reproductive performance by affecting renesting. Distance between subsequent nest locations was inversely related to the movements early in the season and also depended upon length of incubation before nest predation. Females that sampled larger areas after depredation of their first nest and did so outside of their prenesting range were more successful than other females.
© 1996, University of California Press. See the original published article in JSTOR.