Let's Talk Turkey

turkey.jpgToday, Hillary of Mass Audubon shares fun turkey facts you can impress your kids (and guests!) with next week:

Now that the Halloween candy stash is all but depleted, chances are you're thinking less pumpkin and more turkey. We make turkey-inspired crafts, we contemplate whether or not to brine, and we look forward to turkey leftovers. But, there's more to the turkey than just serving as the Thanksgiving centerpiece. In fact, its story is actually quite dramatic.

Anyone who has had a run-in with a wild turkey may find it hard to believe that this now common-place bird almost vanished from our borders. From the early 1900s to the early 1970s, you'd be hard-pressed to hear that familiar gobble-gobble in Massachusetts. This was too much for some people to bear and in 1972, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (now known as Mass Wildlife) released 37 wild turkeys from New York to Berkshire County with the hope that they would stick around and multiply. It worked! In less than 50 years, this bird has gone from being locally extinct to living statewide in Massachusetts.

Here are some other fun turkey facts you can whip out next week:

1. National treasure? Benjamin Franklin was so enamored with the wild turkey that he thought it would be a far better choice as America's national bird rather than the bald eagle.

2. Name game. Toms are males, hens are females, babies are poults, and young turkeys are jakes.

3. Love connections. When a tom wants to attract a hen, they literally strut their stuff by displaying their back feathers, puffing out their chests, and letting out a gobble-gobble. But before you think, "how romantic," know that a tom will court many hens each season.

4. High flyers. Turkeys are surprisingly fast. They can run up to 25 mph and fly up to 55 mph (though only for short distances). In fact, these large birds spend their nights (i.e., roost) high up in the treetops.

5. Fancy feathers. Chances are the turkey you eat had white feathers as opposed to the brown ones seen on the wild turkeys roaming around. And about those feathers...Big Bird, while not a turkey, is covered with white turkey feathers dyed yellow.

Want to learn more? Join a family-friendly turkey program this weekend and read more about the wild turkey's comeback.

Image credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service via Mass Audubon