Turkey - All that you wanted to Know

From the first Thanksgiving to today's turkey burgers, turkeys are a part of the American tradition dating back hundreds of years. However, many of us still know little about these wonderful birds. The following is a compilation of some the most amazing facts about the World of Turkeys

The Christening Act - Do you know how the Turkey got its name???

There are a number of explanations for the origin of the name of Thanksgiving's favorite dinner guest. Some believe Christopher Columbus thought that the land he discovered was connected to India, and believed the bird he discovered (the turkey) was a type of peacock. He therefore called it 'tuka,' which is 'peacock' in Tamil, an Indian language.

Though the turkey is actually a type of pheasant, one can't blame the explorer for trying.

The Native American name for turkey is 'firkee'; some say this is how turkeys got their name. Simple facts, however, sometimes produce the best answers—when a turkey is scared, it makes a "turk, turk, turk" noise.

Globalization of the Turkey

Early explorers to the New World quickly acquired a taste for turkey and took birds back to Europe. By the 1500s, turkeys were being raised domestically in Italy, France and England. When the Pilgrims and other settlers arrived in America, they were already familiar with raising and eating turkey and naturally included it as part of their Thanksgiving feast.

A Tryst with Destiny

Benjamin Franklin, who proposed the turkey as the official United States' bird, and argued passionately on behalf of the turkey, was dismayed when the bald eagle was chosen over the turkey. Franklin felt the turkey, although "vain and silly", was a better choice than the bald eagle, whom he felt was "a coward". He wrote to his daughter, referring to the eagle's "bad moral character," saying, "I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country! The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America."

Knowledge Bank

What's a Fryer and a Roaster?

A turkey under sixteen weeks of age is called a fryer, while a young roaster is five to seven months old.

What do you call that thing that hangs off a turkey's beak?

The flesh-like appendage located on the top of the beak, near the base is called the snood which is very long on male turkeys and hangs down over the beak.

What is the reddish thing that hangs off a turkey's neck?

The reddish fleshy area at the front of the the turkey's throat under the beak is called a wattle. The wattle and the snood become bright red when the tom is "strutting" his stuff in the mating dance.

Does a turkey have ears?

While a turkey does not have ears per se, it does have excellent hearing, making extremely difficult for any creature to approach without being detected. 

How good is their eyesight?

They also have exceptionally keen eyesight and see in color. Their field of vision is about 270 degrees. This is the main reason they continue to elude some hunters. However, a turkey's night vision and depth perception are poor. Turkeys also have a poor sense of smell but a keen sense of taste.

Do all turkeys gobble?

No, only toms (male turkeys) gobble. Hens (females) make a clicking noise.

Why do turkeys gobble?

The gobble is a seasonal call (Spring and Fall) only the male turkeys (toms) make. Hens are attracted for mating when a tom gobbles. Wild toms love to gobble when they hear loud sounds. They also gobble when they settle in for the night. A gobbling turkey can be heard a mile away on a still day.

Can Turkeys fly?

Domesticated turkeys cannot fly but wild turkeys can burst into flight approaching speeds between 50-55 mph in a matter of seconds. A spooked turkey can also run at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. 

Where do Turkeys stay?

Turkeys are able to adapt to a wide variety of habitats. However, most turkeys are found in hardwood forests with grassy areas. Turkeys spend the night in trees. They fly to their roosts around sunset. Turkeys fly to the ground at first light and feed until mid-morning. Feeding resumes in mid-afternoon.

Was the ballroom dance known as the "Turkey Trot" named for turkeys?

As a matter of fact, yes. In it, dancers imitate turkeys by circling the floor in short, jerky steps.

When is the best time to see a Turkey?

The best time to see a turkey is on a warm clear day or in a light rain.

What about the numbers?

In 2000, about 267 million turkeys were raised. We estimate that 45 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter. North Carolina produces 61 million turkeys annually, more than any other state. Minnesota and Arkansas are number two and three.

What happens to the feathers?

It's estimated that turkeys have 3,500 feathers at maturity. The bulk of turkey feathers are composted or otherwise disposed of; however, some feathers may be used for special purposes. For instance, dyed feathers are used to make American Indian costumes or as quills for pens. The costume that "Big Bird" wears on "Sesame Street" is rumored to be made of turkey feathers. Turkey feather down has been used to make pillows. For commercial use, turkey skins are tanned and used to make items like cowboy boots, belts or other accessories.

The Presidential Pardon...

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation (NTF) has presented the President of the United States with a live turkey and two dressed turkeys in celebration of Thanksgiving. The annual presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the President has become a traditional holiday ritual in the nation's capital, signaling the unofficial beginning of the holiday season and providing the President an opportunity to reflect publicly on the meaning of the Thanksgiving season. After the ceremony, the live bird retires to a historical farm to live out the rest of its years.

Believe it or not...

  • Turkeys' heads change colors when they become excited.
  • Turkey eggs are the size of two chicken eggs.
  • Turkeys have heart attacks. When the Air Force was conducting test runs and breaking the sound barrier, fields of turkeys would drop dead.
  • Turkeys can drown if they look up when it is raining.
  • In Mexico, the turkey was considered a sacrificial bird.
  • The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed in at 86 pounds -- about the size of a large German Shepherd -- and was grown in England, according to Dr. Sarah Birkhold, poultry specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
  • June is National Turkey Lovers' Month!
  • Turkeys are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.
  • When Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin sat down to eat their first meal on the moon, their foil food packets contained roasted turkey and all of the trimmings.
  • Eating turkey does not cause you to feel sleepy after your Thanksgiving dinner. Carbohydrates in your Thanksgiving dinner are the likely cause of your sleepiness.




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