The Wild White Turkey

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Call me Ishmael... On second thought, call me Paul.   I do have something in common with the Moby Dick character, though.  We are both in search of our white prey, but not sure how to capture it!  Sightings of a white turkey began last year.  When I heard the reports, I laughed these people off as hallucinating, drinking too much, or having a mild case of the bird flu.

About 2 weeks before this turkey season, I topped a hill in my truck and running across the gravel road was the great white turkey.  I sped to the bottom of the hill to see if I could make out anything unusual (other than the color) of the bird.  All I got was a glimpse of its back as the turkey quickly waddled away through the underbrush.  Some feather tips were colored, giving it the appearance of silver and black stripes.  I didn't make out if it was a tom or hen.  I was concentrating on the markings.

After some research, I found hat it is not unheard of to find a white turkey in the great outdoors.  Some are albino and completely white, while others share a combination of markings from a typical wild turkey.  The dispute is where the white comes from.  There haven't been any domesticated turkeys in my area for probably 30 years.  Is it possible this recessive gene has been hanging around for half a century, or is it a naturally occurring phenomena?

The other question is, do you shoot it?  I pictured a scenario where I was afforded a shot at 2 similar Toms... one white, one natural colors.  If the bird were completely white, a mount would look like you shot a skinny domestic turkey!  On the other hand, a white one with stripes would be a real conversation starter.

So, what are your thoughts?  Is it a cross with a domestic bird?  Which would you shoot?

In the mean time, I will be keeping my eyes peeled and sharpening my harpoon!

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10 thoughts on “The Wild White Turkey

  1. April 10,2015.

    We have had turkeys around our cottage on Lac Papineau (Boileau, Quebec) for about 5 years. This is the first time I spotted a white one with grey markings. It was in a group of 12 hens and 1 tom. I managed to get a rather poor picture with my cell phone. I went back to the cottage and got a better camera but the turkeys are fast through the bush than I am and I could not get a decent picture.

    • I still see one or two a year. If it is from long ago contact with domestic flocks, it is a bit troubling.There have not been any domestic turkeys within 20 miles of my place for at least 50 years. Must be a pretty strong gene.

  2. I found a nesting white turkey with black stripe across its tail and like sargaent stripes on its wings. When I returned two days later to photograph the bird it had been killed either by a farmer or the municipality running over the bird with a roadside or rotary grass cutter. Certainly a error that they most likely where unaware of.
    I rescued five unbroken eggs, they were incubated and three hatched out, They are white chicks, there is speculation by everyone around me that this was a domestic bird? The poults are all white? And there are three? What are the chances?
    Do you have any facts on a wild bird with this coloration, I do have a few feathers! I could photograph them

    • Doug, your timing is interesting. I just saw my local white striped turkey yesterday, confirming she is still around, or that she hatched some white colored offspring as well. I was wondering if the offspring would be mixed and am glad to here from someone who hatched out some eggs. After many discussions, our best guess is that at some point in the past, these birds bred with domestic turkeys. 75 years ago many farmers had white, black or multicolored turkeys. It is not inconceivable that a hen escaped and survived or that a Tom got out and bred hens. Rest assured you and I are not the only ones to have seen the strange turkeys recently. My next question concerns the sex of the white turkeys. Any I have seen have been hens. Possibly a recessive trait only in females? Thanks for the comment, I will see if I can get some more witnesses in on the discussion.

  3. Late yesterday afternoon we spotted 18 turkeys on the golf course behinf our townhouse. 17 of them were the traditional dark color but one of them was distinctly lighter in shade than the others. It had white mixed in with the dark - definitely stood out from the others. Sorta looked somewhat gray. Neat experience seeing that many at one time though.

  4. Just saw today 11/4/2012, a completely white turkey (looked like a domestic turkey) in the woods of NH near Moose Mtn. This turkey was in the company of several other wild turkeys. The completely "snow" white turkey was much larger than the wild turkeys. Quite a surprise. Sorry....forgot my camera.

    • That's the way it usually goes. I have never had my camera when I saw one either. Glad to know others are seeing the same kind of turkey.

  5. I've seen mostly white turkeys in the wild here too - well, I think it's just one and I've seen it a few times. I think I actually got a picture and put it on my blog last year. If I didn't, I meant to because it's an unusual looking turkey! There are several of us in this area that raise domestic turkeys though, and I've always just figured this whitish one is a cross between a wild and domestic white turkey. But maybe not?

  6. We never used to hear of white turkeys mixed with the wild ones. Maybe it is just because numbers are rebounding, we are getting to see some different birds. Keep up the "Coolness"!

  7. We were just talking about these turkeys at supper tonight. I still haven't decided if I would take one or not. Thoughts to ponder...

    Thank you for the mention in your pod-cast! "coolness, smilie face" haha!

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