For most of us, the only time we give much thought to turkeys is at Thanksgiving. However, in fact, the turkey is a very fascinating bird.

In the past, living in Mission Canyon, my husband and I have enjoyed watching a flock of wild turkeys that regularly visited and paraded around our property. I remember one morning, several years ago, we awoke to seeing thirteen turkeys (two Tom’s and eleven hens) pecking around the garden for seeds with three perched on tree branches overhead. It was an unexpected November surprise we enjoyed watching.

Wild Turkeys
Wild Turkeys, Woodcut Print by Patti Jacquemain

The colorful wild turkey is America’s largest game bird, very adaptable, wary, but is said, to be not especially intelligent. They are found in 49 states and prefer wooded areas.

Today, many of us feast on turkey to commemorate the first Thanksgiving in which the Pilgrims held to recognize their first harvest. However, there were no recollections by Pilgrims in historical journals or letters that the turkey was even on the menu.

Thanksgiving itself, one of our National Holidays, was not celebrated for over 240 years after the Pilgrim’s famous feast. The inspiration to feature the turkey is thought to have originated from our mother country, Great Brittan.

As we know, every Thanksgiving our President pardons two domesticated turkeys in a ceremony to “spare” them from being served as a featured guest on the dining room table. I have to wonder why the Turkey, a native American which Benjamin Franklin long ago proposed to be the National Bird of the United States (instead of the bald Eagle), has to be pardoned by the President. In other words, what did the turkey do so wrong, over their many lifetimes, to earn the need to be granted absolution? Only history can give us that answer.


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