White Turkeys-Wild, Feral or Butterballs? (Pt. 1)

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March 15, 2019

Domestic turkeys like these royal palms can run feral but hunters across the nation report seeing white wild turkeys of different varieties.

White specimens of animals normally other colors are intriguing. Who can deny the iconic image of the white buffalo for example? When it comes to grabbing readers attention however we found that nothing does the job quite like white turkeys.

I wrote an article about white turkeys in Texas and beyond and the following are some of the incredible stories we got.

From Bill Wyatt: About 25 years ago, on my grandfather’s farm in Wilson Co. along the Cibolo Creek near La Vernia, TX there was the largest group of gobblers I had ever seen before or since roaming around. There was probably two dozens gobblers and the gobbler that seemed to be dominant was completely white. Never got close enough to tell if it was an albino or just simply a white color phase.

Richard Berry submitted this photo of a white Rio grande turkey near Johnson City.

About 20 years ago on a deer lease in Zavala Co. we had a large flock of hens that had both white and normally colored feathers in quite a few of the birds. We called them the Zebra flock.

Last Spring, on the side of a farm to market road near the Cibolo Creek in Guadalupe Co. I saw a small flock of hens (6-8 adults) and numerous poults. One adult hen was completely white and the other adult hens had varying amounts of white feathers mixed in with normally colored feathers much like the Zebra flock in Zavala Co. All pretty cool, and God does seem to admire amazing variety.

From Jay Gurry: I just read your article. We saw and harvested a white “Rio” on a property east of Paint Rock TX, several years ago (probably 15).  The property we hunted bordered O.H. Ivie Reservoir and was home to a larger turkey roost.

There were hundreds of “normal” wild turkey in the area.  The white hen was mixed in a pack of at least two dozen other “normal” birds and was seen several times, before harvested.  We wondered if it was a domestic turkey that had lost its way, but it looked and acted like the other wild birds and was the same size as the rest of the group, so we figured it simply a freak color phase. 

Anonymous By Request: The hunter that harvested the bird intended to have it mounted; however, I believe it was ruined in a freezer power outage.

Back in the 1950’s, my dad had a “white feather problem” on an island where he managed the wild game.  Unfortunately, a flock of white domestic turkeys was kept on hand to provide turkeys for eating purposes. The free ranging domestic hens mated with wild toms native to the Island, and problems began.

The poults all had some white feathers. To rectify the problems, the flock of white turkeys was eliminated, and over a period of years, any turkey with white feathers was eliminated. 

(Look for part 2 of this story in the next edition of The Turkey National.)

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

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