Facts And Myths About The Turkey

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - November 24, 2010
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As Thanksgiving approaches, I think of the many interesting turkey facts that meandered my way over the years.

Most of them are legitimate, others half-truths and a few are urban legends. Though tainted facts become accepted truths as they pass from individual to individual in unending repetition, allow me to shed some light on the topic.

* Turkeys can’t fly.

Is this an urban legend? Well, farm-raised turkeys are often too heavy to fly but wild turkeys fly up into trees to sleep at night and flutter down in the early morning to feed.

In fact, when the need arises, some of our poultry brethren have been clocked flying at 55 mph.


Unfortunately the farm-reared domesticated turkey is mostly good for one thing, filling our stomach during the holidays.

Though perfect at Thanksgiving, in the wild these plump beasts would struggle to survive. This transformation through domestication is like changing a triathlete into a couch potato.

What have we done to these majestic birds?

* The wild turkey competed with the bald eagle to be our national bird.

Is this an urban legend? No, it’s true. Benjamin Franklin lobbied to have the turkey as our national bird.

“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 and silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack ...”

I understand Mr. Franklin’s point of view, but I have a hard time envisioning a muscle-bound turkey attacking. Somehow the bald eagle possesses a “cool” factor that the turkey doesn’t.

If the turkey did supplant the bald eagle as our national bird, would we still eat it during Thanksgiving?

Hmm ... * Turkeys will look up when it rains and eventually drown.

Not true. Turkeys may not be the smartest animal to walk the planet, but drowning in the rain is a bit far-fetched. A poult (baby turkey) could get soaked in the rain and die from hypothermia. During a thunderstorm, panicked turkeys huddling against a fence may smother other flock members. As the farmer assesses the damage caused by the storm, he would see a handful of dead birds wallowing in puddles. These scenarios are possible, but death by raindrops is most likely out of the question.

* Turkey meat is bad for your dog.


This is definitely an urban legend. Turkey meat is OK for your canine or feline friend.

If, however, you offer a hunk of oily skin, a slathering of creamy brown gravy and buttery mash potatoes with the turkey meat, your furry little friend could experience some health problems. Vomiting, anorexia, explosive diarrhea and a raging pancreatitis top the list of complications from “dietary indiscretion.”

So feel free to offer turkey to your pet, but stay clear of the fixings that adorn your Thanksgiving table.

So there you have it.

Turkeys are truly magnificent animals. Throughout history they have provided sustenance to our forefathers and became an integral part of United States history.

So the next time you take a bite of holiday fare, be thankful for the sacrifice made by the turkey and his “fore-feathers.”

The Wild Side salutes you, Mr. Turkey.

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