Some people mistake turkeys as being an unintelligent fowl but the truth is that the turkey is quite bright. The reason why people mistake turkeys for being dull is because of an often told, fake story that claims that turkeys will stare at the sky while it’s raining until they drown. This however is untrue; some turkeys suffer from an inherited nervous disorder called tetanic torticollar spasms. These spasms cause the turkeys to stare up into the sky for up to thirty seconds at a time.
Despite this disorder that will occasionally cause some turkeys to uncontrollably stare into space, the turkey is actually quite an impressive bird. Firstly, the wild turkey is the largest gaming bird in North America. Secondly, a turkey can have a 360-degree view of its surroundings by moving its neck and it can hear sounds and identify the source of the sound from up to a mile away.
Wild turkeys use their feathers both to attract mates and as a defense mechanism, to blend into their woodland environment. Another colorful fact about the turkey is that the bare skin on the turkey’s head and neck can change colors, depending on if the bird is stressed or excited, similar to humans blushing.
Unlike wild turkeys, the domestic turkeys that most of us eat for Thanksgiving do not use colorful feathers for anything, and most of them cannot fly. These turkeys are much larger than wild turkeys and are bred to have white feathers, distinguishing them from their wild counterparts.
Interestingly enough, Benjamin Franklin was a big fan of the turkey and had thought that it would be a better symbol for the United States than the Bald Eagle!
“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him…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.” – Benjamin Franklin