The United States is preparing for its annual Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday 25th November, with turkey the centerpiece of most family gathering meals. According to the National Turkey Federation about 52 million turkeys are typically eaten on Thanksgiving Day. Americans generally believe that their Thanksgiving is modeled on a 1621 harvest feast shared by the English colonists (Pilgrims) of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people.
Turkeys are a large game bird native to North America and can be identified by their fan-shaped tail feathers, bald heads and red wattle that hangs from their neck. Female turkeys are referred to as hens, while males are known as toms. Typically domesticated as a poultry food source, turkeys are traditionally famous for serving during festive occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The typical Turkey has an overall height of 122 cm (48.0″) and body length of 117 cm (46.0″). An average Turkey weighs between 7.7-13.6 kg (17-30 lb) and has a typical lifespan of 1.5-1.75 years (farm); 10 (wild).
- Turkeys are social birds and in winter often separate into three distinct groups: adult males (toms), young males (jakes), and females (hens) of all ages.
- Wild turkey populations dwindled to fewer than 30,000 birds by the 1930s due to habitat destruction and unregulated shooting. Today, there are roughly 6.4 million wild turkeys. They can be found in every state except Alaska.
- Wild turkeys can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour. They can run as fast as 20 miles per hour. Commercially raised turkeys cannot fly.
- Turkeys’ heads change colors when they become excited.
- Male turkeys are sometimes called gobblers, which makes sense because they gobble. Hens don’t gobble. They make a clicking noise.
- During the spring, a male wild turkey’s physical appearance changes: his head turns a brilliant red, white and blue color. He can often be seen puffed up, tail feathers fanned out and his wings dragging on the ground. This display is called strutting and the purpose of this display is to attract hens for breeding
- The fleshy growth under a turkey’s throat is called a wattle. Turkeys also have a long, red, fleshy area that grows from the forehead over the bill called a snood.
- Turkeys can have heart attacks. During U.S. Air Force test runs in breaking the sound barrier, nearby turkeys dropped dead from sudden cardiac arrest.
- The ballroom dance the “Turkey Trot” was named for the short, jerky steps that turkeys take.
- Turkeys can see in color but have poor night vision.
- Benjamin Franklin disapproved of the selection of the Bald Eagle as the national bird, calling it “a Bird of bad moral Character.” He much preferred the Wild Turkey, saying, “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”