Ten turkey facts we bet you didn’t know

Photo of a turkey in the grass

If you want to be the stand-out at Thanksgiving, bring these 10 turkey facts with you.

Soy de Mexico. All turkeys originated in Mexico. Now it imports about 400 million pounds of turkey from the U.S. for consumption.

They were wanted for their feathers. Wild turkeys can have a wing span — their wings stretch out to — almost five feet. It was their beautiful feathers that made people want to domesticate them. Domesticate means to tame a wild animal to keep it as a pet or for farm produce. Turkeys were first domesticated in Mexico about 800 B.C. and were kept on farms for their feathers, not for their meat. They didn’t become a large food source for American Indians until 1100 A.D.

Turkeys can swim. When they need to, they will tuck in their wings, spread out of their tail and kick their legs.

The chick’s name is literally “young fowl.” Creative. A baby turkey is called a poult, from the Middle English word polet or pulte, which meant young fowl.

They change colors. The turkey head is normally grayish blue, but the skin of a male’s head and neck can turn deep red or purplish when they want to breed or are feeling aggressive. The blood goes to their head, like when a person gets flushed when excited or mad.

Populations have recovered. Due to its popularity as a food in the U.S., wild turkeys were overhunted, and they were almost extirpated — extinct in a region — from Iowa by 1900. Conservation efforts brought them back, and they now occur in every state except Alaska.

They’re lazy nest-makers. A female turkey scratches a shallow depression in the soil, about 1 inch deep and uses only the dead leaves or plant materials already at her nesting site. She doesn’t go out and find any more material than is already there.

Females don’t gobble. The classic gobble-gobble-gobble sound of the turkey is only made by males, and it’s their version of a rooster’s crow. It is used to attract females and to respond to other males. So if you hear the classic turkey sound, you’re hearing a male.

They can see you. While humans can only see up to 180 degrees at a time, turkeys can see up to 270 degrees at a time, like the panoramic view of your cell phone camera.

They have a lot of feathers. Each turkey has more than about 3,500 feathers when it is an adult.

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