Animal behaviour: Plumage colour predicts whether turkeys are bold or fearful

Domesticated turkeys in Nigeria come in a variety of colours, and those with lavender-coloured feathers are more fearful than black-feathered birds


10 December 2021

Domestic turkey

A domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) with dark plumage

Graham Prentice/Alamy

The feather colours of certain kinds of turkeys can predict how they cope with life on the farm.

Raised for their meat and eggs, domesticated Nigerian indigenous turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are born with either black, white or lavender – also called bronze – plumes. Despite descending from the same genetic line, black turkeys display the boldest and most adventurous behaviour, while lavender ones often act fearfully. Birds with white plumage appear to lie somewhere in between, says Samuel Durosaro at the Federal University of …