In the March edition of Texas Fish & Game we addressed the ultra rare presence of white turkeys and asked for readers to submit any photos they might have.
Richard Berry responded with the following.
Enjoyed the article on the White Turkey in the March edition. We have a lease outside of Johnson City and we have white turkeys on it. We have seen them since 2014 and they are still there as several members have seen them this year. I told the members if they shot one, they had to have a full body mount made and brought to the lease for all to see, therefore they are still alive and well. We have the big tom and a hen and I think they have an offspring because I saw what looks like a smaller and younger one with about 12 jakes last spring.
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, individual differences in feather coloration are probably the most reported oddities.
“The late James Kazmierski and his son, Steven, compiled a detailed article titled, “Turkey Plumage: Color and Composition,” in which they state that the genetics responsible for these variations have not been well documented.”
They noted the Kazmierski’s list eight plumage types found in domestic turkeys. They go on to speculate that since domestic turkeys originated from wild stock, the genes responsible for such plumage types are probably found in wild populations as well.
“One of the most common color variations is the “smoky gray” color phase. Turkeys with this variation appear white from a distance.”
“Upon closer examination, however, it is obvious that these birds’ appearance is due to a loss of brown or bronze pigments while the black areas of the feathers remain.”
“Every year, the NWTF receives reports of turkeys in a smoky gray color phase, and many turkey hunters have seen at least one during their time in their field. This recessive trait seems to occur more frequently among hens, but is still occasionally seen in gobblers.”
NWTF officials said this trait is probably detrimental to survival–it makes the turkey more visible–some smoky gray wild turkeys may survive for several years. One smoky gray hen in Georgia was observed with a normal brood of poults each spring for five years.
They added that melanistic (black) and erythristic (red) color variations also are reported each year, but are not as common as the smoky gray phase. Albinism is also reported.
Have you ever seen white turkeys or one with these other color phases? If so, email me at [email protected] and share your story or photo/video if you have one. To read about turkey restoration in Texas click here.
Chester Moore, Jr.