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Where Do Those Large Winter Flocks of Gobblers Go Come Spring?



Gobblers that congregated in large flocks during the winter break up into small bachelor groups when spring arrives.

Spring Gobbler Dispersal

In early spring, larger all-male flocks break up. Some gobblers go it alone, but most spend the spring mating season in small alliances of two to four gobblers. There is strict social order within these alliances. Only the dominant gobbler does the copulating, and the others assist him in attracting hens, strutting and fighting off competitors.

Some biologists have speculated that male mating alliances are composed of closely related male turkeys — mostly brothers. Because brothers carry many of the same genes, any male in such an alliance that mated and fathered poults would be passing on many of the genes of his brothers. So by cooperating with their close kin, the allies would be helping to pass on the family genes, so to speak, even if they didn’t mate. Although that seems plausible, the kinship hypothesis of gobbler flocking behavior is unproven.

Jakes usually attempt to associate with older gobblers in spring. Henry Davis called them apprentice gobblers. Adult gobblers reject jakes at first but finally become so preoccupied with courtship that jakes are able to hang around the fringes of the mating aggregations without actually joining the party.

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