The main reason wild turkeys sleep in trees at night is to keep safe from predators. These diurnal birds don’t have great vision in the dark, and sleeping on a tree branch keeps them out of reach from most common predators like coyotes, foxes, and raccoons.
They also prefer to roost in open areas where they can easily land and forage during the day. Because they are not expert flyers, they cannot live in densely wooded areas and tend to roost in isolated trees near open land where they can easily get down when needed. They generally roost in trees 20-30 feet above the ground, and favor oaks, sycamores, and cottonwoods because of their large horizontal branches that allow for comfortable roosting.
While they will often roost in one specific tree each night, turkeys do move around throughout the year based on food availability and weather conditions. They are also known to return to a roosting spot if it provides the proper cover and security.
Young poults (turkey chicks) can’t fly yet, so they remain on the ground while their mothers go up into the trees to roost. Once the poults are old enough to fly, they join their mothers in the trees as they continue to roost at night. When the sun rises, they call out softly to each other with yelps to make sure everyone made it through the night in one piece before they descend to start their day on the ground foraging for food.