Turkey Incognito

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Even if you are not from the states, hopefully, we all have something to be thankful for even if there isn’t a designated holiday in your neck of the woods.  This year is a bit of redemption for me from the last couple of years.  If you happen to recall, two years ago I was shocked to learn I didn’t have an appropriate topic to honor the day.  Ended up going with a substitute featured feathered friend – the Turkey Vulture (link here).   To my credit, at least it had the name of the traditional protein right in the name (and large, with some red, funny looking… you get the picture).  Last year I was so embarrassed I completely skipped the topic and announced I was unofficially stepping out of the corporate arena (link here).  Simply skipped right over the day itself and picked back up with part two of the Cedar Waxwing series (link here).  The hope being no one noticed I didn’t have a bird in the hopper that even remotely related to a Turkey – sigh.  Well, this year you are in luck.

White Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to find out about our incognito Turkey

Yes, folks, this year our featured feathered friend is ACTUALLY a Wild Turkey. You might be thinking there is something a bit off with this specimen – we’ll get to that in just a minute, first let’s set the table … whoops, I mean stage first. Our intriguing looking Turkey comes to you thanks to our trip to the southern border at the beginning of the year. We made our way to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, near Mission TX, with the primary goal of tinning a rarity that we heard was hanging out there – the Ruddy Ground Dove (link here). Having accomplished that I took a hike out to Hawk Tower with the intent of finally taking the trail out to the Rio Grande River. Made it to the Tower and spent some time shooting various birds hanging out in that marsh. Not a Hawk to be found though. Returned to the trail and started making my way to the river.

White Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2021

I tend to not get too stressed out in the wild and take it upon myself to insure I am properly protected if that safety becomes compromised – a series of observations started raising alert levels.  First off I was completely alone – there wasn’t a single tourist in sight on that trail or overlook nor anyone even remotely close that I could tell based on the long walk to that point.  There were, however, several border patrol vehicles stationed in that area.  In itself, nothing new for Bentsen, but the numbers were surprising with several additional vehicles slowly driving past the trail head.  They were all cordial as they always were.  Brandon had halted the border wall construction the day we were there.  Then the tipping point – there wasn’t a sound on that trail, nothing, nada, no birds, no ground rodents scurrying on the forest floor nor wind to even rustle the leaves.  Deafening silence rang out everywhere.  I gave it another quarter mile and decided I would leave that exploration for another visit.  It was also starting to drizzle again which would force my ISO to teeth gritting levels.  Turned back and started the long ass hike back to the entrance. 

White Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2021

On the way back I was able to capture fodder for my future “in a Tree” series.  That included the Greater Roadrunner (link here) and yep, another Wild Turkey series (link here).  Had I kept on the original plan, I would have assuredly missed those encounters.  I was also extremely elated there would be Turkeys for this year’s November post.  Since those Turkey shots were already featured, obviously there was another surprise as I made my way back to the RV.   That brings us to our interesting colored specimen.  If you thought this one looked a bit light, then you are absolutely right.  At the time I was hesitant to label it as leucistic  because it had some coloring still visible especially in the head area.  After internal debate decided it might be a juvi going through a phase (wasn’t versed on Turkey transitions at the time).

White Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2021

As Thanksgiving approached, dived back into the queue to prepare these shots for public consumption.  Did some digging to verify what made it into the tin.  For those not familiar, Leucistic is a term that Merriam defines as “an abnormal condition of reduced pigmentation affecting various animals (such as birds, mammals, and reptiles) that is marked by overall pale color or patches of reduced coloring and is caused by a genetic mutation which inhibits melanin and other pigments from being deposited in feathers, hair, or skin”.  This is not the same thing as albino which has little to no pigment and usually accompanied by pink eyes.  The “reduced” word is the key part in the above definition.  From other experiences in the field and what I’ve seen on the web, the coloring tends to be monochromatic in the sense I usually see similar pigments, dark browns, blacks, greys etc. but I haven’t seen the pinkish hues and blues in addition – the reason I was thrown off on initial observation. 

White Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2021

The best I can tell from various references on the net, this specimen is considered under the leucistic category and specifically the Smoke Morph or Phase (although, not really a phase as they will not transition to the standard coloring).  Typically these Smokes will be greyer than browns – the digital sensors may have been making some incorrect assumptions with all the browns surrounding it in the frame.  The Smoke coloring is more frequent than albinos, but still rather rare.  It requires both parents to have the recessed gene that causes it – if only one, then the coloring will be normal although that offspring will be a recessed gene carrier that can produce another one if it mates with a another recessed gene Turkey (how’s that for confusing hehehe).  It took a while, but did manage to get a shot with the leucistic specimen and one of the normal colored Turkeys it was hanging around with.  Purely based on observation only, but will note the leucistic specimen was significantly smaller than the others in that flock. 

And there you have it!  Hopefully you enjoyed our appropriately themed Thanksgiving post.  In honor of the holiday, I wanted to mention a few things I am truly grateful for. 

My wife who makes every day better than the last and somehow manages to keep from laughing as she tries to sternly convince me not to sign up for the next feat of strength. 

To the rest of my family – a father I think about all the time who taught me to never given in/give up/stay down, a mother always willing to do what it takes to get me put back together when things didn’t go as planned and brothers who are always there to get me out of the latest pickle. 

My close set of physical friends that continue to expand my horizon, help keep my blogs grammatically correct and gladly agree to “hold my beer” when opportunity knocks.

…and of course my virtual friends and fellow bloggers that give their precious/irreplaceable time to view my shots and consume my musings – many of which produce their own posts that I look forward to every day. 

Thank you all and stay safe out there!

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