November 11, 2014

11 Unique Facts About Turkeys



Turkeys in East Weymouth, Mass.

Turkeys in East Weymouth, Mass.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Its traditional dinner is centered around turkey.

How well do you know about turkey? Or the wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo?

Each year the current president gives two turkeys a pardon. Allegedly, the first presidential pardon was given by Harry Truman in 1947—to a turkey—spurring an annual tradition of allowing two turkeys (one for the president, the other for the vice president) to be spared each Thanksgiving. Some of these pardoned turkeys have gone to Frying Pan Farm Park in northern Virginia. More recently they have gone to Washington’s Mount Vernon.*****

Turkeys are intelligent and sensitive animals that are highly social. They create lasting social bonds with each other and are very affectionate; rather similar to dogs.****

America’s turkeys almost went extinct in 1930 from loss of forest habitat and overhunting.  Recovery efforts over 80 years have succeeded. Now an estimated 7 million wild turkeys in North and Central America.*****

I’ve prepared a quiz for you, 10 questions with an 11th bonus question. Use it during your Thanksgiving festivities. Let me know how well you and your family/friends do.


  1. A young poult (baby turkey) is up, out of the nest and walking around searching for food within _______ hours. It is one of up to _____ siblings. Can a hen (female turkey) lay a fertilized egg without mating?
  2. Which state is tops in turkey production?
  3. Name the two United States towns named Turkey. Also name the town in Pennsylvania’s Somerset county which includes the word Turkey.
  4. How many feathers does a turkey have at maturity?
  5. What do the turkey and the octopus have in common?
  6. Besides feather color, how can you determine a turkey’s gender?
  7. What disease do turkeys share with the humans who dine on them?
  8. How did the turkey get its name?
  9. How fast can turkeys run?
  10. How many distinct vocalizations do you hear from turkeys, in addition to the male’s distinctive gobble which can be heard a mile away?****


How much turkey did the typical American devour in 2009? What is the average weight of the turkey on the Thanksgiving table? How much did the heaviest turkey ever raised weigh?

To learn the answers click on MORE

The former Turrill turkey farm in Laughlintown, PA

The former Turrill turkey farm in Laughlintown, PA


  1. 24 hours.  Up to 18 siblings. ***** A turkey hen can lay a fertilized egg without mating. This process, called parthenogenesis, also occurs in some invertebrates, fish, and lizards.  For turkeys, this process always produces male chicks which are no different from male turkeys hatched from mating.^
  2. Minnesota, the Gopher State, produced 46.5 million turkeys, followed by: North Carolina 30 million; Arkansas 30 million; Missouri 18 million; Virginia 17.5 million; and Indiana 16 million. These six states together account for about two-thirds of U.S. turkeys*
  3. Turkey, Texas and Turkey, N.C.* Turkeyfoot, Pennsylvania, where the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers and Laurel Hill Creek form a shape akin to a turkey’s foot. There are three places in the United States named after the holiday’s traditional main course, including Turkey Creek, Louisiana and Turkey Creek, Arizona. There are also nine (or 11*) townships around the country named “Turkey. Three are in Kansas ^^
  4. 3500** (or 5000-6000****). *** Like peacocks, male turkeys puff up their bodies and spread their elaborate feathers to attract a mate. His feathers have areas of red, purple, green, copper, bronze, and gold iridescence—gorgeously camouflaged plumage to match the forest environments where they live, An adult gobbler also has a beard of modified feathers on his breast that reaches seven inches or more long. Female feathers are duller overall, in shades of brown and grey.****
  5. They both change color depending on their emotions.^ The bare skin on a turkey’s bald throat and head can change color in seconds with excitement or emotion. The birds’ heads can be red, (pink) white or blue.*****
  6. Examine the turkey’s droppings. Males produce spiral-shaped poop and females’ produce letter J-shaped poop.***
  7. Heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks** when a sonic boom from a passing jet reached them*****
  8. From the nation of Turkey.  Domesticated turkeys took a circuitous route to America’s dinner tables.  Wild turkeys (native to and found only in America*****) were first domesticated in Mexico and then exported to Europe only to come back here later. Early European visitors to the Americas saw the creature and were reminded of a bird familiar to them back home known as a “Turkey bird.”  It seems that the African guinea fowl made it to Europe in the Middle Ages via Turkey and the similarity to the American bird gave rise to the same name being applied.***** Strangely, in many countries/languages (not just in English), turkeys are called by the names of other countrie, e. g. in Portuguese, a turkey is called peru, in Greece they call turkeys French birds. Turkeys are also called, in different countries,  “fire chicken” and “seven-faced bird.”^
  9. Commercially raised turkeys cannot fly.** Other turkeys preferred method of locomotion is walking or trotting. ^^ They are fast on their feet, having a top running speed of about 25 miles per hour.***** They can fly (albeit it ungracefully) up to 55 miles per hour.^
  10. First, note that hens don’t gobble. They make a clucking noise. ** That said, Individual turkeys have unique voices. This is how they recognize each other.**** They exhibit over 20 distinct vocalizations.


13.3 pounds, with no doubt a hearty helping devoured at Thanksgiving time*

The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.**

The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog.**

Taken at Joe's Bar in Ligonier, PA

Taken at Joe’s Bar in Ligonier, PA



1 Comment »

  1. Carolyn, good morning. I saw a documentation about turkeys on PBS…very interesting bird. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Monte. 🙂

    Comment by merry101 — November 11, 2014 @ 8:00 am | Reply

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