Here is some fun trivia about turkeys, the all-American birds.
- There are several theories about how turkeys got their name. One story claims the Christopher Columbus heard some birds say “tuka, tuka”, and his interpreter came up with the name tukki, which means “big bird” in hebrew.
- 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 average person in the United States will eat 15 pounds of turkey this year.
- 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 scarlet. 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 wild turkey is one of the more difficult 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!
- A male turkey is called a tom, a female is a hen, and a youngster is a poult.
- 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, prefers 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 domestic turkey, from birth to freezer, is 26 weeks. During this period of time, it will eat about 75 pounds of turkey feed. The average life span of a wild turkey is three or four years. It generally feeds on seeds, nuts, insects, and berries.
- 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.
- Only male turkeys, or toms, can 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.