We are right in the midst of turkey season. There was Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving this week and Christmas on the horizon. Turkeys are generally the centrepiece of holidays. How often do we ever think about turkeys beyond the dinner plate? There is a lot more to these birds besides stuffing, gravy and the rest. After reading the Old Farmers Almanac’s turkey trivia, I’m not so sure how much I can think of them as food. But, that’s just me. Below are interesting facts about turkeys including a letter from Benjamin Franklin asserting they really ought to be the national symbol.
“Turkeys originated in the “New World.” Specifically, wild turkeys are native to Mexico. It’s a funny history. European explorers brought back wild turkeys in the early 1500s. They were domesticated in Europe and later brought to North America by English colonists. Note that the domesticated turkeys have white-tipped tails; wild turkeys have dark-tipped tails.
Only male turkeys, or toms, can make a call known as a “gobble,” and they mostly do it in the spring and fall. It is a mating call and attracts the hens.
Wild turkeys gobble at loud sounds and when they settle in for the night. The wild turkey can make at least 30 different calls!
Ben Franklin thought the turkey would be a better national symbol than the bald eagle. According to the Franklin Institute, he wrote in a letter to his daughter:
“For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly…like those among men who live by sharping and robbing…he is generally poor, and often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little king-bird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district…For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours…”
The loose red skin attached to the underside of a turkey’s beak is called a wattle. When the male turkey is excited, especially during mating season, the wattle turns a scarlet red. The fleshy flap of skin that hangs over the gobbler’s beak is called a snood and also turns bright red when the bird is excited. The wobbly little thing on the turkey’s chest is the turkey’s beard and is made up of keratin bristles. Keratin is the same substance that forms hair and horns on other animals.
The wild turkey is one of the more difficult game birds to hunt. It won’t be flushed out of the brush with a dog. Instead, hunters must try to
attract it with different calls. Even with two seasons a year, only one in six hunters will get a wild turkey. By the 1930s, almost all of the wild turkeys in the U.S. had been hunted. Today, thanks to conservation programs, there are plenty of wild turkeys—they even invade cities and suburbs!
When Europeans first encountered the wild turkey in Mexico, they incorrectly classified the bird as a type of guinea fowl called a turkey fowl. It was Turkish traders who originally sold guinea fowl from Africa to European markets; Turkey has no native turkeys!
A baby turkey is called a poult, chick, or even turklette. An adult male turkey is called a tom and a female is a hen. The domestic tom can weigh up to 50 pounds, the domestic hen up to 16 pounds. The wild tom can weigh up to 20 pounds, the wild hen up to 12 pounds.. The wild turkey can fly! (It does, however, prefer to walk or run.) The domestic turkey is not an agile flyer, though the bird will perch in trees to stay safe from predators.
The average life span of a wild turkey is three or four years. It generally feeds on seeds, nuts, insects, and berries.”
I prefer not to mention the life span of the domestic turkey. It is sad. BTW, did you know there was a passenger on a plane who boarded with a turkey on a leash. It was his emotional support and therapy pet. True story.
Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating this week. Please stay safe. Count your blessings. Bon appetit.
Comments are welcomed.