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Bronze Turkey FAQs

A. What is the origin of what propagators call a bronze turkey? 

(Information provided by Bob Eriksen, NWTF Conservation Field Supervisor, Northeastern US): The origin of all domestic varieties is the Mexican wild turkey (Meleagris gallapavo gallapavo). Selective breeding in Europe after the Spanish brought domestic birds to that continent resulted in a number of breeds with different characteristics. The bronze variety actually originated in North America in the 1800's by breeders crossing wild and domestic stock to obtain the darker colors and metallic iridescence. There is a good summary of domestic turkey varieties on Wikipedia with good photos. There are a number of recognized standard breeds. Among them are: broad-breasted white, broad-breasted bronze, standard bronze, Royal Palm, Black or Spanish black, slate or blue slate, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, chocolate, Beltsville white and midget white.

B. How can we tell a bronze from a wild eastern? 

(Information provided by Bob Eriksen, NWTF Conservation Field Supervisor, Northeastern US): The standard bronze does not have the "double-wide" breast of the broad-breasted varieties. Most bronze turkeys exhibit domestic traits such as heavier legs than wild birds, lighter leg color than wild birds (very light pink to gray or white), light cream colored to white tips on the retrices (major tail feathers) and upper and lower tail coverts. In addition the heads of both sexes are usually more heavily ornamented than wild birds. Very large major caruncles, heavy snoods and crowns and large dewlaps are typical. Broad-breasted bronze turkeys are too heavy to breed naturally and must be artificially inseminated unless young toms are used for breeding. The standard bronze is lighter and can breed naturally but it is still heavier at younger ages than wild birds.