Tom – a male turkey. Also known as a gobbler.Hen – a female turkey.

Poult – baby turkey, a chick.

Gizzard – a part of a bird’s stomach that contains tiny stones. It helps them grind up food for digestion.

  neck.jpg Snood – the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey’s beak.Caruncle – brightly colored growths on the throat region.

Wattle – the flap of skin under the turkey’s chin.The Snood, Caruncle and Wattle turn bright red when upset or during courtship.



The turkey is a variety of the pheasant.

Turkeys can drown if they look up when it is raining.

Mature turkeys have 3,500 or so feathers.

A scared Turkey is also a canidate for a heart attack.

On average, it takes 84 pounds of feed to raise a 30 pound tom turkey.

It’s estimated that turkeys have 3,500 feathers at maturity.

A tom turkey can produce as many as 1,500 poults during a hen’s six-month production cycle.

Only tom turkeys gobble. The hens make a clicking noise. The gobble is a seasonal call during the spring and fall. Hens are attracted for mating when a tom gobbles. Wild toms love to gobble when they hear loud sounds or settle in for the night. Gobbling starts before sunrise and can continue through most of the morning.

Other uses for turkeys: Turkey skins are tanned and used to make items such as cowboy boots, belts, and other accessories. Turkey down is used in pillows. Turkey feathers are dyed and used in making costumes for Native Americans. Wing feathers are used in fletching arrows.


It was once thought that the bird could make warts disappear? Using a white turkey feather, remove grease from the wheel of a wagon drawn by a white mule. Rub the greased feather on the wart for three days at exactly 3:30 p.m. sharp and the wart will fall off.


The origin of the name is unclear, but some interesting theories exist. Christopher Columbus thought the New World was connected to India. He called the unusual bird “tuka,” which is peacock in the Tamil language of India. Another tale says the merchants who sold turkeys in Spain changed the Tamil “tuka” to the Hebrew “tukki,” which then evolved into the English “turkey.” Others maintain the American Indian name for the bird was “firkee.” Another theory says the present name “turkey” came from the alarm call of the bird, which sounds something like “turc, turc, turc.”

Turkeys were found only in the Americas until the 1500’s. Christopher Columbus and later Hernando Cortez both acquired a taste for turkey in the Western Hemisphere and both took some back to Europe. By 1530, turkeys were being raised domestically in Italy, France and England. When the Pilgrims and other early settlers arrived on American shores, they already were familiar with eating turkey. Much of the world today includes turkey in their cuisine.

History associates turkey with the first Thanksgiving feast celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. However, some argue that the settlers of Virginia’s Jamestown earlier celebrated America’s first Thanksgiving as their extension of England’s Harvest Home Festival, a sort of homecoming weekend.

Ben Franklin suggested the national bird be a turkey and not the bald eagle. In a letter to his daughter he wrote, “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.”

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863 in response to a campaign by a woman magazine editor, Sara Josepha Hale. Ms. Hale also was the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Abraham Lincoln’s son, Tad, had a pet turkey. When it was suggested that the bird might make a fine holiday dinner, the boy set up such a howl of protest that the president finally issued a “presidential pardon” for Tad’s pet. In the early West, turkeys were trailed like cattle in “drives” to supply food where needed. One of the earliest turkey drives was over the Sierras from California to Carson City, Nevada. Hungry miners coughed up $5 apiece for the birds.

When US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin sat down to eat their first meal on the moon in their historic 1969 voyage, their foil food packets contained roasted turkey and all the trimmings. If the turkey had been named the national bird, who knows, when our astronauts touched down upon the Moon they might have spoken the immortal words: “Houston the Turkey has landed”.

Domestic VS. Wild

Who first domesticated the turkey? There is archeological evidence that turkeys were at least confined, if not domesticated, by the Southwest Indians as long as 2,000 years ago. Some scientists believe the Aztecs were the first to domesticate the turkey.

Domesticated turkeys are bred to have more breast meat and meatier thighs than their cousin, the wild turkey.

All commercial turkeys produced today are the white, broad-breasted turkey breed. This breed was first used for commercial turkey production in the late 1950s. By the late 1960s, the majority of the industry used this turkey breed.

Domestic White Turkey
Wild Native Turkey
Are raised on farms and cannot fly. Neither can they survive in the wild.   Can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour and can run 25 miles an hour.
Are bred to be entirely white so their feathers won’t bleed color into the meat when they’re plucked.   Are rarely seen as their patchwork color scheme makes good camouflage in their woodland home.
Their snoods are always red. They do not court much because they are too chunky and barrel-chested to mate. Instead they are artificially inseminated.   Can change his whole head from red to blue in minutes when he courts. He also fans out his tail and puffs up his body feathers to look huge and round.
Are bred to gain weight quickly. A tom can reach a weight of 30 pounds within 18 weeks after hatching. It’s all done by breeding, not with the use of hormones or steroids.   Are the largest game birds in North America, measuring up to 4 feet from beak to tail and standing as much as 4 feet tall. They’ve been known to weigh as much as 24 muscular pounds.




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