Great Turkey Day (Thanksgiving) Facts
Remember the days right before Thanksgiving when the teacher passed out drawing paper and everyone traced his or her own hand for the makeshift turkey outline? The Pilgrim hat went on the turkey’s head and the traditional colored feathers which ranged from neon colors to black? Everyone’s artwork decorated the walls of the classroom until right before Thanksgiving vacation when we proudly gave them to our parents to hand on the fridge until Christmas. At least that was the tradition in the Midwest. But, what about some fun facts about Thanksgiving?
For example, why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day? Research shows that the tradition of eating fowl, most commonly goose, during fall harvest came from England, although turkey was also a common choice for these festivities. When the Pilgrims came to America, wild turkeys were more abundant than geese, so they became more of a staple. During the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, the meat served was most likely venison and wild fowl.
Turkeys take approximately 9 months to reach maturity. So, if the turkeys are born in the spring they are fully grown by fall and are ready for consumption. During the colonial time, the turkey offered little economic value other than eating. Chickens and cows with their respective eggs and milk earned their right to live in the barn. Also, the turkeys were easier to hunt than ducks or geese, and lived off of acorns and insects versus the corn of the chickens.
Wild turkeys nest in trees at night (preferably oak trees) and often sleep in flocks. Wild turkeys can run up to 20 miles per hour, and when properly frightened can fly a short distance at 55 miles per hour. However, commercially raised turkeys do not fly.
Turkeys also have 270 degrees of peripheral vision! They have excellent hearing and can also see colors; however, they cannot see very well at night.
Baby turkeys are poults. Very young turkeys (16 weeks) are called fryers. A 5- 7 month old turkey is called is known as a young roaster.
Only male turkeys gobble. Female turkeys cluck.
Studies show that consuming turkey doesn’t necessarily make you sleepy. It is actually the mix of the meat and the carbohydrates from the stuffing, sweets, bread, potatoes and pie. All meat, cheese, nuts, and shell-fish contain tryptophan in comparable levels.
Turkeys can actually have heart-attacks if extremely frightened. Also, if they become excited, agitated, scared or ill the exposed skin on the head can change colors from the normal pink to a bluish gray, to red, to white, or even blue!
Very social animals, they often break into three distinct groups by adult males, females, and young males.
Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird. He wrote to his daughter:
For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly…like those among men who live by sharping and robbing…he is generally poor, and often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little king-bird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district…For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours…
The long flap of skin that hangs over the beak is called a “snood.” The skin that hangs from the neck is called a “wattle.”
These are just a few fun Turkey Day Facts to discuss with your friends and family. If you have any others, do let us know. We’ll add them to our growing list!
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