1.) The wild turkey was hunted nearly to extinction by the early 1900s, when the population reached a low of around 30,000 birds. But restoration programs across North America have brought the numbers up to seven million today.
2.) There are six subspecies of wild turkey, all native to North America.
3.) There is one other species of turkey, the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata), which can be found on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico
4.) The pilgrims hunted and ate the eastern wild turkey, M. gallopavo silvestris, which today has a range that covers the eastern half of the United States and extends into Canada. These birds, sometimes called the forest turkey, are the most numerous of all the turkey subspecies, numbering more than five million
5.) The Aztecs domesticated another subspecies, M. gallapavo gallopavo, the south Mexican wild turkey, and the Spanish brought those turkeys to Europe. The pilgrims then brought several of these domestic turkeys back to North America.
6.) The turkey is believed to have been sacred in ancient Mexican cultures. The Mayans, Aztecs and Toltecs referred to the turkey as the ‘Great Xolotl’, viewing them as ‘jeweled birds’.
7.) Male turkeys are called “gobblers,” because they make a “gobble” sound to announce themselves to females and to compete with other males.
8.) Female are called “hens.”
9.) Turkeys are known to exhibit over 20 distinct vocalizations. Including the distinctive gobble, produced by males, which can be heard a mile away. Other turkey sounds include “purrs,” “yelps” and “kee-kees.
10.) An adult gobbler weighs 16 to 22 pounds on average, has a beard of modified feathers on his breast that reaches seven inches or more long, and has sharp spurs on his legs for fighting.
11.) A hen is smaller, weighing around 8 to 12 pounds, and has no beard or spurs.
12.) Both genders have a snood (a dangly appendage on the face), wattle (the red dangly bit under the chin) and only a few feathers on the head.
13.) Turkeys have 5000 to 6000 feathers.
14.) Examining a turkey’s droppings can tell you if a male or a female bird passed through the area. A turkey’s gender can be determined from its droppings – males produce spiral-shaped poop and the females’ poop is shaped like the letter J. (N.B- Some websites say its the opposite male- J-shaped and female-spiral, since I’ve never raised a live turkey I don’t know which one to be true, let me know, if you know from experience).
15.) Wild turkeys can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and fly as fast as 55 miles per hour, however only for relatively short distances. Most domestic turkeys however are unable to fly due to being selectively bred to be larger than would be suitable in wild circumstances.
16.) A group of related male turkeys will band together to court females, though only one member of the group gets to mate.
17.) When a hen is ready to make little turkeys, she’ll lay about 10 to 12 eggs, one egg per day, over a period of about two weeks. The eggs will incubate for about 28 days before hatching.
18.) Baby turkeys, called Poults, eat berries, seeds and insects, while adults have a more varied diet that can include acorns and even small reptiles.
19.) Baby turkeys (poults) flock with their mother all year. Although wild turkeys roost in the trees, as poults are unable to fly for the first couple of weeks of their lives, the mother stays with them at ground level to keep them safe and warm until they are strong enough to all roost up in the safety of the trees.
20.) It has been said that Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as a symbol for America, but to debunk a popular turkey tale, Benjamin Franklin did not advocate for the turkey as the National Bird. However, according to The Franklin Institute, he was against the Bald Eagle, stating in a letter to his daughter that it was a “Bird of bad moral Character” whereas the turkey was a “much more respectable Bird… a Bird of Courage.”
21.) Turkeys have outstanding geography skills. They have the ability to learn the precise details of an area over 1,000 acres in size.
22.) Like peacocks, male turkeys puff up their bodies and spread their elaborate feathers to attract a mate.
23.) There are approximately 5,500 feathers on an adult wild turkey, including 18 tail feathers that make up the male’s distinct fan.
24.) The area of bare skin on a turkey’s throat and head vary in color depending on its level of excitement and stress.When excited, a male turkey’s head turns blue, when ready to fight it turns red.
25.) The first official presidential turkey pardon wasn’t given until George H.W. Bush’s in 1989.
26.) This part of the turkey may not be so digestible at Thanksgiving: When eating, turkeys ingest small stones that go into a part of their stomachs called the gizzard, which helps the turkey break down food. This process is necessary because turkeys, like all birds, don’t have teeth.
27.) Turkeys have two stomachs: the glandular stomach that softens the food with gastric juices, and the gizzard that grinds it up for the intestines or the first stomach, if needed.
28.) Turkeys have heart attacks. When the Air Force was conducting test runs and breaking the sound barrier, fields of turkeys would drop dead.
29.) Chickens are champion egg-producers. Turkeys, not so good. Turkey eggs are bigger, so their nests tie up coop space. And farmers have learned that they make more raising turkeys for meat rather than eggs. Oh, and some turkeys are protective of their eggs, making the gathering more challenging.
30.) Turkeys have less dark meat because domestic turkeys are too fat to fly, so they don’t use their breast muscles much, which is why breast meat is white. The breast of a wild turkey is entirely different, darker and far tastier.