Birds of a Different Feather

May 23, 2019

Written by Larry Klink

The Wild Turkey and the Mallard are familiar to most of us.; In fact, their markings make them instantly recognizable, but, like all animals, there are variations.

 Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallpavo). Photo by Larry Klink

The wild turkey, with its iridescent feathers bathed by the sun, is a magnificent site.  But there is a variation seen at Effie Yeaw that is interesting. It is called leucitic.  A leucitic animal is one who has some or all its cells that canít produce pigment therefore it is white. They are not albino, they donít have the pink eyes and albinoís cells can produce pigment but donít. The ones I have seen appear to be mottled dark gray and white; maybe they should be called pied turkeys. I have a few leucitic turkeys in my neighborhood. Look around and you might find some in yours.

 Leucitic Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallpavo). Photo by Larry Klink

On a recent trip to the pond at Sailor Bar, on the American River, near Orangevale, I saw another interesting variant Ė a bird that looked like a large, very dark Mallard. I was confused when I saw it. I thought it might be melanistic; a condition where the cells produce black pigment. But, this bird wasnít black; just very dark. Even its iridescent green head was very dark. Also, it was much larger than the Mallards accompanying it.

 Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhyncos). Photo by Larry Klink Domestic Type Mallard Duck. Photo by Larry Klink

One of the excellent bird experts at Effie Yeaw put me on the right track. He said it was a Domestic-type Mallard. According to Cornell Labs, most domestic ducks have descended from Mallards.The duck that I saw looks like a Duclaire Duck, one that is bread for its meat; therefore, I suspect it is feral. Ducks Unlimited claims many of these feral birds have been put in the wild by people whose Easter Duck became to difficult to manage. Its impossible know the story of this bird, but, it is different and beautiful.