Wild Turkey

Meleagris gallopavo Order: Galliformes Family: Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
Meleagris gallopavo Order: Galliformes Family: Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

Benjamin Franklin suggested in a letter to his daughter that he disapproved of the choice of the Bald Eagle for the national emblem, but expressed relief that the bird on the official emblem didn’t resemble an eagle very closely. “I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

The Wild Turkey features in the Guinness Book of World Records:

Wild Turkey: Strongest bird gizzard. The gizzard is the portion of a bird’s stomach that grinds food into small pieces. The world’s strongest recorded gizzard is that of the turkey Meleagris gallopavo. One specimen had crushed 24 walnuts in their shells within 4 hours, and had also ground surgical lancet blades into grit within 16 hours.

Wild Turkeys probably were not found in Minnesota or much of Wisconsin before European settlement. “Re-introduction” programs historically and in recent decades have expanded the species range far beyond what it had ever been before. Turkeys are omnivorous, devouring bird eggs and baby birds as well as anything else they find on the ground. I suspect that within a decade or two, they will be considered as great an ecological and human problem as Canada Geese and White-tailed Deer are now.

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