ON THE WILD SIDE They’re not just here to gobble up
YOU won’t see
● any wild turkeys strutting around in the UK but you can see them at farm parks or zoos. Enjoy their shiny bronze feathers but don’t dwell too much on the sad fate awaiting them! TURKEYS aren’t just giant, stupid chickens. In the UK we only see the overly fat, domesticated version bred for the dinner table. But these proud creatures also roam wild on the open plains of the United States. THEY were common in the Americas but turkeys were very nearly wiped out due to over-hunting.
They were almost extinct by the
1930s but enough people wanted to see them survive that several schemes were set up to reintroduce them.
Now almost seven million are out there and they are being hunted again in the US. Some people never learn! THEY may be hunted, but they are also respected. Former president Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of America as he considered the bald eagle a thief and a general bad egg. Turkeys are also sacred to some native American tribes, with their feathers used to make ritual head-dresses and cloaks. YOU may be surprised to learn that wild turkeys can fly…and rather fast. They can reach more than 50 miles per hour in flight and like to spend their nights sleeping up in trees. LIKE many birds, they can’t see in the dark. But in daylight they can see in full colour and have a field of view of 270 degrees. In contrast, humans only have a vision span of 120 degrees.
THEY look after their babies with aggressive loyalty and have been known to attack people who go near their young. The chicks (which are known as poults) will be up and running and foraging for food on their own within just 24 hours of hatching.
THEY are in one way perhaps the most patriotic bird of all. The bare skin on a turkey’s head and neck changes colour with their emotions and can turn red, white and blue – the colours of the US flag.
TO follow on from last week’s festive theme, let’s talk about a bird that’s very popular on the Christmas dinner table, but didn’t hit our shores until 1526. Yes, I’m talking about that goofy gobbler the turkey. ■BIRDS OF A FEATHER: A domestic turkey on a farm and, inset left, its wild counterpart
Q: WHAT do you get if you cross a skunk with a bell?A: Jingle smells. WHY did the plank of wood moan about having nothing to do?It was board! PUB drinker: Do you serve women in here?Landlord: No, you have to bring your own. WHAT hides in the bakery at Christmas?A mince spy.