Blackwing Bronze

by Acon Ault

I became obsessed with this beauty, from the first time I saw its picture. Why? It hatches in yellow fluffy down, then gets its baby feathers of white, laced and highlighted in black penciling, from its wing coverts to the body. If they had a contest for the most beautiful turkey poult breed (both wild and domestic) he would win hands down. Then, just as you start to enjoy this plumage, it again changes to the juvenile plumage that is another color phase. Note the picture of the out-stretched wing on the poult. You can see the brownish reddish gold feathers starting. The main wing primaries are black, like a Royal Palm, with the secondary wing feathers black with an edging of white. And look at that tail!! The center tail feather is starting with its elongated, chain pickerel design going the length of each tail feather. Then the adult plumage -- that really adds the final touch. Now study the tail of the adult bird. Of all the wild and domestic breeds, this tail is different, AND IS THE MAIN ATTRACTION OF THIS BEAUTY.

As a Taxidermist since 1955, mounting hundreds of turkeys and creating and having the "TURKEY MANIA": a mounted display of all 6 subspecies of the wild turkey and all the 7 recognized varieties of the domestic turkeys, exhibited at the major Sports Shows. (To our knowledge, this was the only display of its type in the country. )

Teaching Turkey taxidermy, creating our own line of copyrighted turkey bodies for taxidermists plus extensive study and raising of the wild and domestic breeds, and being a four time taxidermy judge for The National Wild Turkey Federation's Grand Nationals, I have never seen a tail on a turkey such as this one produces. Knowing that in the wild turkey populations, nature can do a twist on colors -- whitish or smoky gray, even though albino with pink eyes has never been reported in the wild breeds, red cast, which is the erythristic phase and the black cast which is the melanin phase -- and in any of these color phases or mutants in the wild population, the tail barring always stays the same, even though it is faint at times.

Out of a clutch of Black Wing Bronze, we did have a throwback or sport that was of Sweetgrass color. In the short time spent on research of this very rare turkey, I became obsessed with the turkey. I am enclosing an excerpt of the Turkey Genius of this breed sent to me by Franklin Albertsen.

by Franklin D. Albertsen

At one time a breed of turkey was developed in Texas with this blackwinged bronze trait as a sport or mutation from the Bronze. The distinguishing characteristics were the solid slatey-black primary wing feathers, secondary wing feathers which had about 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch white border on their edge, sometimes a few scattered whitish-grey feathers on the shoulders, and the hens tended to be lighter colored than a bronze because of more distinct white lacing or penciling on their body. The major visual effect though was the predominance of a brighter goldish-red cast to the iridescence of the feathers in the sunlight -- which is probably what really catches your eye. That's why the originator dubbed them "Crimson Dawns." It's a very fitting name. I've had a few off and on for years, and gave the last of mine away a few years ago. When I went to three different people I had given birds to to rebuild a flock, I discovered either dogs or coyotes had destroyed every flock. The pattern is due to a simple autosomal gene which is a recessive allele to both black and bronze patterns -- B (black), b+ (normal wild bronze -- the reason for a "+" in the nomenclature), and b' (black winged bronze). The "b'" allele is what gives Royal Palm birds their solid slatey-black wings. It also occurs in tri-color, calico, or Sweetgrass type birds which have black rather than barred wings. Geo. Nicholas, the founder of Nicholas Turkeys, also had a flock before white dominated the commercial turkey industry. In the 50s and 60s he AI-ed all his colored birds, regardless of strain, with whites to meet the needs of the industry. But, I have occasionally restored color to Nicholas commercial whites and located the gene. In fact, by observing the down color of freshly hatched white poults, one can determine the underlying hidden color pattern. I have had a strain of tricolor turkeys that carried BWB for about 35 years so I mated one of those toms to some crossbred bronze x BWB birds I found that went back to my originals. I also got some bronze eggs from Rita Eichman in Dodge City, KS, that were from Norm Kardosh's birds that occasionally sport BWB poults. From this I recreated as close as possible a new group of BWB. They should breed relatively true. Being due to a single recessive gene they are easy to segregate and breed true. However, like any other turkey, there are a lot of unidentified modifiers that can affect the tints and tones of color -- from creams to whites, the reddish or tannish browns, and extent of black pigmentation. Many wild turkeys tend to have a nearly black back compared to selected tame bronzes. With persistent selection, one can maintain just about any shade desired -- but that is often easier said than done. They're beautiful birds in the sunlight. I have from time to time seen wild turkeys with the BWB traits -- both here in Iowa and in the east. Somewhere I have a book or pamphlet on wild turkeys from the USDA that shows a BWB tom in a wild flock.
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