Ahead of Thanksgiving on Thursday, Mental Floss has compiled a list of fun facts you might not know about the wild turkey!
- They can fly. A wild turkey flying at full speed can reach 55 mph.
- The birds were named after the country. Turkish traders had been importing African guinea fowl to Europe for some time when North American explorers started shipping M. gallopavo back to the Old World. The American birds looked kind of like the African “turkey-cocks,” so Europeans called them turkeys.
- They nearly went extinct. By the early 20th century, hunting and habitat destruction had dwindled the turkey populations down to 30,000. With the help of conservationists, the turkey made a comeback.
- They’ve got two stomachs. Each swallowed mouthful of food goes first into a chamber called a proventriculus, which uses stomach acid to start softening the food. From there, food travels to the gizzard, where specialized muscles smash it into smaller pieces.
- Female turkeys don’t gobble. A gobble is the male turkey’s version of a lion’s roar, announcing his presence to females and warning his rivals to stay away.
- Eating turkey is not going to knock you out. While turkey meat does contain the amino acid tryptophan, the sleepy feeling you feel after the big meal is more likely caused by carbs, alcohol and generally eating to excess.
- Ben Franklin never proposed the turkey as the National Bird of the United States of America. He did say, however, that the wild turkey was “a much more respectable bird” than the bald eagle.
- They sleep in trees. Due to their aforementioned deliciousness, turkeys have a lot of natural predators. As such, they hide in trees at nightfall.
- Both male and female turkeys have wattles. The wattle is the red dangly bit under the turkey’s chin.
- They have really good vision. Given the placement of their eyes on the sides of their heads, turkeys can see 270 degrees.
I can honestly say I knew about 2 of those LOL Happy Thanksgiving!