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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bring On the Turkey!

It's Thanksgiving time in the U.S. and without a doubt, this is my favorite holiday of the year.  Family, food and fall weather all combine to make this holiday priceless to me.  While I am usually trying to collect deer meat this time of year, there is no better Thanksgiving Day food to me than turkey, whether it be domesticated or wild.

In honor of one of the coolest creatures in the wild, today I thought I would post a few obscure facts about the Wild Turkey.  You may already know most of these facts, but it would take a true turkey guru to know all of them.  Without further delay, here are my favorite facts about the Wild Turkey:

Male strutting for female

1.   The male turkey has fleshy growths on its featherless head called caruncles.  The fleshy flap near its beak is called a snood.  It expands by filling with blood when the turkey is excited.

2.   When a male turkey becomes agitated and ready to fight, its head turns red in color; when it is excited for other reasons, its head turns blue.  While strutting for females, the male's head turns red, white and blue.
Male hunting for food

3.   Unlike many birds, the male turkey is substantially larger than the female.  Males normally weigh up to 24 pounds while females weigh up to 12 pounds.  The world record wild turkey weighed in at 38 pounds.

4.  Early in the 1900's, the wild turkey population had dropped as low as 30,000.  Thanks to reintroduction and conservation programs, the current wild turkey population is estimated to be 7 million birds.

5.   The males sport a beard, a tuft of coarse hair growing out the center of the male's chest, but 10% to 20% of females also have a beard.

6.   Wild turkeys can fly up to 45 miles per hour, but normally fly close to the ground for no more than a quarter-mile.

7.   The gobble of a male turkey can be heard up to a mile away.  Females can gobble also, but rarely do.
Recently hatched poults

8.   The average nest has 10 - 14 eggs in it and are incubated for at least 28 days.  Common predators of young turkeys (poults) and turkey eggs include raccoons, opossums, skunks, fox, coyote and snakes.

9.   Wild turkey was a favorite meal of eastern Indian tribes.  They often used the turkey meat to make jerky so it would be preserved and they could have turkey throughout the year.

10.   Ben Franklin didn't like the idea of the bald eagle being the national symbol, instead he felt it should be the wild turkey.  He believed that because the eagle will sometimes steal food from other birds, the eagle suffered from poor moral character.  He felt strongly that the turkey was a much more respectable bird.

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