By Lindzie White

On November 6th, 2020 a white turkey or meleagris gallopavo, the scientific name, was spotted on Cape Cod Community College Campus. The white turkey was grazing with its flock of four near parking lot eight when it was spotted by Lindzie White, “The sight of a white turkey was absolutely bizarre!” White animals are mystical, transformative, spiritual and sometimes foreboding in ancient tales. “A White Mountain Apache tale about the origin of corn describes how Turkey gave corn to human beings by shaking seeds of the four different colors of corn—black, blue, yellow, and white—from his feathers. In a Cherokee myth, when Turkey gave fire to the world he signed off his head feathers, which explains why turkeys are bald,” Patricia Ann Lynch in Turkeys in American Indian mythology.

The rare white turkey varieties are caused by genetic mutations passed from one generation to the next. “This heredity means that certain morphs are unique and occur naturally. Biologists estimate 1 in every 100,000 wild turkeys has this muted coloration,” Jeff Alexander a Biologist. Wild turkeys come in two or more colors: white and black. These versions are caused by albinism and melanism, conditions which occur in many animals. Melanistic wild turkeys over produce the pigment of melanin making them a rare kind of turkey. Even rarer, albinos, a condition marked by white skin and feathers along with light pink or red eyes. White turkeys are beautiful and majestic, however, being a white turkey is not easy because they stand out more to predators, like human hunters and coyotes. The white turkeys do not have a variety of coloration which makes them harder to blend in because of the lack of camouflage that has evolved over time by their turkey ancestors.

Honoring the turkey this Thanksgiving on Thursday November 26th, 2020, can be as simple as stopping and admiring the turkeys and their variety of colors. Take a moment and carefully look at each individual turkey and assess its colors. Turkeys are very allusive, so viewing them quickly and silently might be the only way to catch a glance of their colors. Not only are turkeys very quick to run away or fly to the nearest tree to avoid predators, they are also very viscous. It is not recommended to advance on a flock of turkeys. Young Jakes ( young male turkey) are often very protective of any female’s in the flock and will not hesitate to take action. Turkeys have a defensive technique where they use their talons to stomp its predator while it flaps its wings. According to a man in Rutherford County, Tennessee, who got attacked by a turkey says, “ the wings hit just as hard as a grown man throwing punches.” Interacting with turkeys can be a one in a lifetime experience, especially a rare white turkey in this case on the campus of 4C’s. For more information, or if you would like to share your turkey story please contact me at Lindzie.white@capecod.edu .