Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey

  The turkey is a famous bird in the history of the United States. It was Benjamin Franklin’s choice for national bird of America! Even though most people think the pilgrims loved turkey also, historians believe diners at the “First Thanksgiving” dined on deer and native vegetables (sorry, no pumpkin pie, either). Turkeys mainly live on the forest floor, but sometimes they hang out in swamps and grasslands. Turkeys are, surprisingly, omnivores that feed on nuts, seeds, insects, fruits, and…salamanders? Yep, salamanders…and snakes.

from http://tingsgrove.blogspot.com/2011/10/snake-eating-turkey-or-is-it-turkey.html
The male turkey is thought to look “showy” and “attractive”, but there isn’t anything very attractive about a bald, pink head and a large, red wattle hanging from its beak (in our opinion). Aside from its minor flaws, it has a large tailfan and big, ruffly feathers to attract mates. The female, on the other hand, is smaller and “less showy”. It doesn’t sport the shiny blue-black feathers and is more of a brown or tan color. In the wild, turkeys live for about three to four  years and can grow up to about four feet tall! Because turkeys are birds, their bones are light and even the largest birds max out at only 20 pounds. Most are around 8-10 pounds, though.
Meleagris gallopavo: The Wild Turkey (male). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Turkey

Most people don’t eat wild turkeys, and for Thanksgiving, your mom probably bought one that was raised on a farm! People have been breeding domesticated turkeys for about three to four hundred years. Breeder farms send the eggs to the hatcheries. The eggs hatch after about 28 days. There, they are categorized into different gender groups and are fed the same thing every day: ground soybean and corn (pretty gross… huh?). The female turkeys are slaughtered at about 14 weeks after hatching, and the males after about 18 weeks (poor turkey!). Some domesticated turkeys are able to lay eggs that are able to hatch without fertilization. This process is called parthenogenesis and is more common in insects than birds or mammals, so the turkey is definitely a unique bird. 

We hope you have a happy Thanksgiving (with or without the turkey…)!

1 comment:

  1. We had a bunch of turkeys walk through where we live a couple of weeks ago. They look very different from turkeys that grow on farms, that's for sure.