How the Turkey Got Its Name
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.
turkey is actually a type of pheasant, one can't blame the explorer for
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,
Thrilling Turkey Facts
An overwhelming majority of turkeys polled feel that Thanksgiving is
not actually Turkey Day. In fact, it seems a lot more like Anti-Turkey
Day. Yes, the Wild Turkey is North America’s largest game bird. However, Meleagris gallopavo has a lot more going for it than tasty, tryptophan-laced flesh:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
our 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.”