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Let's Talk Turkey

by Margaret Minnicks about a month ago in Historical · updated about a month ago

Learn some interesting things about the bird that ends up on many tables on Thanksgiving Day.

Even though the turkey is the centerpiece on most people's dinner tables on Thanksgiving Day, it was not the meat that was eaten on the first Thanksgiving. The 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians ate venison, goose, and duck when they met to celebrate a fruitful harvest.

There are a lot of other things people don't know about turkeys. So, let's talk about Turkey 101.

1. Male and Female Turkeys

Turkey is the name of the bird, but both males and females have other names even though most people refer to all of them as turkeys. Male turkeys are bigger and more colorful than female turkeys. They are called "toms" and "gobblers." Female turkeys are called "hens." They are much smaller than males. Baby turkeys are called "poults." Young male turkeys are called "jakes." Young female turkeys are called "jennies."

2. Sounds of Turkeys

Only the male turkeys use the gobbling sound the bird is known for. They gobble to find a mate. On the other hand, female turkeys make a clucking and chirping sound. The males' gobbling sound can be heard up to a mile away, but the female sound can't be heard that far away.

3. Weight of Turkeys

Domestic turkeys are bred, and they end up being too heavy to fly. Their weight is twice as much as wild turkeys that are much lighter and can fly up to 55 mph.

4. Turkey Feathers

An adult turkey has between 5,000 and 6,000 feathers. Male turkeys, like peacocks, use their fancy tail feathers to attract female turkeys to become their mates.

5. Color of Turkeys

All turkeys are not the same color. Domestic turkeys are usually white. Wild turkeys are brown and tan to help them blend into their surrounding while they sleep on top of tree branches.

The bare heads of both the domestic and wild turkeys change colors from gray to red, blue, or white when they become excited or stressed. When they are calm, their bare heads remain the same color.

6. Eyes of Turkeys

Turkeys have eyes on the sides of their head instead of in the front of them. They can see three times better than humans because they have a periscopic vision. Their eyesight covers 270 degrees, and they can see in color.

7. Turkeys Sleep Pattern

Turkeys are often seen walking around on the ground during the day, but they sleep in trees at night to be protected from predators because they can't see well.

8. Mating Habit of Turkeys

(Photo via Pinterest)

Turkeys use their snoods for mating. A snood is that long fleshy part of the turkey that hangs over the beak. When a turkey is excited over a female, the snood gets longer as is shown in the above photo.

According to the Journal of Avian Biology, females prefer males with longer snoods, and they often choose a mate with the longest one.

9. Where Turkeys Are Found

Today, turkeys are native to North America, but that has not always been the case. In the early 20th century, turkeys were close to being extinct. Since the 1940s, wild turkeys can be found throughout the United States.

10. Origin of Presidential Pardons

It was has been a tradition for every President of the United States to be given a turkey as a gift for his own use since 1813. Documents in the Eisenhower Presidential Library show that President Dwight Eisenhower ate the birds presented to him during his two terms.

Three days before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy spared his turkey on November 19, 1963. Kennedy did not refer to it as a pardon. Richard Nixon also spared some of the turkeys given to him during his time in office. During her husband's administration, First Lady Rosalynn Carter sent the turkey they receive to petting zoos.

There were no official ceremonies, but in 1982 President Ronald Reagan was the first president to pardon his turkeys before sending them to farms and petting zoos. Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush, was the first one to have an official pardoning ceremony for the turkey given to him as a gift during his first year in office in 1989. Every president since then has carried on the tradition. After the turkey is pardoned, it does not end up on anybody's dinner table. Instead, the named bird is sent to live out the rest of its life on a turkey farm. Some of the turkeys die within one year, but some have lived up to three additional years.

11. Turkeys Are Eaten Every Thanksgiving

At least 46 million turkeys are killed every year to be eaten on Thanksgiving Day. Americans consume about 1.4 billion pounds of turkey on that holiday. This does not include the number of turkeys killed and eaten a month later on Christmas Day.

12. Price of Thanksgiving Turkeys

Turkeys used to be plentiful during the days leading up to Thanksgiving, and they were much cheaper than they are for Thanksgiving 2021. Consumers will have a hard time finding them. When they do find them, they will see that the prices will be much higher than they have ever been.

Here are other Thanksgiving articles by this writer:

The Great Thanksgiving Debate: Is It Stuffing or Dressing?Your Thanksgiving Dinner Comes From Many StatesThe First Thanksgiving Compared To Modern-Day ThanksgivingsTraditional and Odd Ways to Cook a Turkey

Historical

Margaret Minnicks

Margaret Minnicks shares articles with readers all over the world. Topics include celebrities, royal family, movies, television, foods, drinks, health issues, and other interesting things. Thanks in advance for TIPS that are sent my way.

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Margaret Minnicks
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