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The ABC’s of the Wild Turkey: Thanksgiving Table Talk

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In case you want to dazzle the kinfolk over the dinner table at this year’s Thanksgiving celebration, here’s a heaping helping of turkey trivia-from A to Z!

Alaska

This is the only state where wild turkeys can’t be found – not because it’s too cold, but because the state doesn’t have a long growing season. There’s just not enough food for turkeys to survive.

Beard

All male wild turkeys and between 10 and 20 percent of females have beards, which grow longer as the bird gets older.

Call

A hunter’s tool, the turkey call was created by Native Americans and dates back about 4,000 years. The original calls were made from hollowed-out turkey bones.

Diet

Wild turkeys are omnivores, meaning they eat plants (nuts, berries, grass, oats and corn) and animals (crickets, grasshoppers and worms).

Eastern

This is one of the five subspecies of wild turkey, and it’s the most populous. Other subspecies include Florida (or Osceola), Gould’s, Merriam’s and Rio Grande.

Feathers

Each wild turkey has 5,000 to 6,000 feathers.

Gobbler

This is the proper term for an adult male, who might also be called a “tom.” An adult female is called a “hen.”

Hearing

Wild turkeys have an excellent sense of hearing, which allows them to detect a threat even when they’re intent on finding food.

Indigenous

Wild turkeys are found throughout North America.

Jake and Jenny

A young male is called a “jake,” while a young female is a “jenny.”

Killers

Young wild turkeys are pursued by many predators, including bobcats, foxes and eagles. The most common killer of young birds isn’t another animal at all; it’s weather, as many die of hypothermia.

L-Shaped

A male turkey scat looks like the letter “L” or “J,” whereas female turkeys poop in curly shaped mounds. (And yes, we’re delighted that we got to use the word “poop” in a press release!)

Melanistic

This is one of four feather colorations in wild turkeys, and it’s extremely rare. It features all-black feathers, like a raven would have. Other colorations include smokey-gray, albino, in which the bird has pink eyes and white legs; and erythritic, which is an overall red coloration.

Native Americans

The first people to see and eat wild turkeys were American Indians.

Oddities

The Winchester Museum at the National Wild Turkey Federation maintains a collection of wild turkey rarities. These include birds with multiple beards,, multiple spurs, and “bumble toes”.

Poult

A baby turkey is called a “poult.” Females lay eight to 12 eggs at a time, perhaps six to 10 of those will hatch, and only about half of those will make it to adulthood.

Quick

Wild turkeys can run up to 25 mph and fly at speeds up to 55 mph. Domestic turkeys don’t run very fast and can only fly when they’re very young. So … score one for the wild guys.

Radios

Thanks to the efforts of the National Wild Turkey Federation, scientists track turkeys with radios that send out signals and let them know whether the birds are alive.

Strut

A male turkey looking for some attention from the gals will strut, dropping his wings to touch the ground, holding his tail in a vertical position, lowering his head and doing a little “dance” while making a spitting and drumming sound.

Taste

Turkeys can detect the same tastes as humans – sweet, sour, salty and bitter – but have very poor sense of taste because they don’t have many taste buds.

Utilitarian

Native Americans ate turkeys, but also used their body parts for tools and decoration. A male’s spur could be used as the tip of an arrow. A feather adhered to an arrow made it fly faster and straighter.

Vision

Wild turkeys have excellent daylight vision and can quickly detect movement and assimilate detail.

Weight

Female wild turkeys can weigh between 10 and 15 pounds, and males can tip the scales at 20 to 25 pounds.

X-treme Honor

The wild turkey has been declared the state game bird for four states – Alabama, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and – of course – South Carolina.

Years

Turkeys don’t live very long. Males may reach 10 years old, while females might make it to about six years.

Zany Body Parts

Wild turkeys have some crazy-sounding parts. The “snood” is what you call that thing that dangles over the bird’s beak. The “carnucles,” are the red, fleshy bumps on the turkey’s neck.

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