Regardless of how you will be celebrating Thanksgiving, it’s a relatively safe assumption that at some point you will be relaxing and enjoying the company of friends or family. Whether you will be stuffing yourself full of a turkey dinner or choosing to emancipate one on your family’s behalf, a little bit of Turkey Trivia will come in handy for your Thanksgiving gathering.

Did ya know?

Our North American Wild turkeys are the largest game bird in the world. They are omnivores, social, intelligent and yes, they can fly!

Turkeys, both wild and domestic, are fluent in Turkey Talk. These birds produce at least 20 distinct vocalizations and communicate individually, as well as communally.

A group of turkeys is correctly called a “rafter” or a “gang” – although “flock” is the more common slang term. EmXUwn6E.jpg

Turkeys nearly went extinct around the 1930’s – due in part to over hunting as well as the rapid destruction of their woodland habitat.

A gang of turkeys can consist of toms, hens, poults, jakes and jennies!
Turkeys show their emotions by the changing the coloration of their head and necks.

Americans eat over 600 million pounds of turkey each Thanksgiving.
“Gobbler” is a nickname for all turkeys, however, male turkeys are the only ones who actually gobble!

You can tell the sex of a wild turkey by the shape of its droppings: males are J-shaped and females are formed in a spiral.

The U.S. has 4 Turkey Towns : There’s a Turkey, Texas and North Carolina; and a Turkey Creek, Louisiana and Arizona.

Sesame Street’s Big Bird is actually dressed in dyed turkey feathers – about 4000 of them! According to an interview with the New York Times, the costume weighs approximately 15 pounds.

Ben Franklin wanted the Wild Turkey to be our National Symbol– he said that they were respectable birds and “though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

A wattle is the fleshy part that hangs down under a turkey’s chin, the snood (or dewbill) dangles across the top of his beak.

Tom turkeys have beards that hang up to 10 inches below their chest – these are actually modified feathers that are course like horse hair.

Male turkeys take themselves very seriously when trying to impress a mate. With head held high, he fluffs his feathers up, raises his tail in an impressive fan-like display and struts proudly around gobbling about how fantastic he looks! (Check out the attached video)

Contrary to popular folklore, turkeys are quite intelligent. And no, they most assuredly do not hold their faces up and drown when it rains!

Some Native American cultures considered turkeys the symbol for friendship and providence.

Turkeys have 18 large quill feathers in their tail. Before ink pens were invented, these were once the most popular tool used for writing.

And of course, it’s never advisable to take a turkey into polite company – because their “fowl” language could be quite embarrassing! (It’s acceptable to roll your eyes here! 🙂

Turkeys, along with other poultry, are not protected by the federal Humane Slaughter Act, and are frequently raised, handled and killed in very inhumane ways. *Learn more here – Let’s Talk Turkey: What they don’t want you to know.

wild-male-turkey-bird-close-up-meleagris-gallopavo_w578_h725.jpgIf you would like to celebrate Thanksgiving in a more traditional way, you can drop turkey from the menu all together. The “first” Thanksgiving meal that we’ve always heard about most likely consisted of venison, fish, berries, nuts and native plants. *Learn more here – Thanksgiving: Pilgrims or Puritans – Plymouth or El Paso?

If you do plan to eat a turkey this Thanksgiving, please consider letting your turkey dollars support farms who practice cruelty-free methods of raising these magnificent birds!

Local Harvest will help you find legitimate, organic food sources for your holiday meal. And you can visit Farm Sanctuary to learn more about turkeys – you can even adopt one of your own!


This article was originally published at Atlanta Outdoors Examiner on Nov. 21, 2011.