Turkey Trivia: Fun Facts About America's Favorite Bird

The A long-time centerpiece of American holiday feasts, the turkey has a colorful and delicious history. Here are some intriguing facts about our nation's favorite bird, that you may not know:

- Turkeys originated in North and Central America, and evidence indicates that they have been around for over 10 million years.

- Until 1863, Thanksgiving Day had not been celebrated annually since the first feast in 1621. This changed in 1863 when Sarah Josepha Hale encouraged Abraham Lincoln to set aside the last Thursday in November "as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer."

- In Mexico, the turkey was considered a sacrificial bird.

- Domesticated turkeys (farm raised) cannot fly. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances at up to 55 miles per hour. Wild turkeys are also fast on the ground, running at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

- Only male turkeys (toms) gobble. Females (hens) make a clicking noise. The gobble is a seasonal call during the spring and fall. Hens are attracted for mating when a tom gobbles. Wild toms love to gobble when they hear loud sounds or settle in for the night.

- The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed in at 86 pounds -- about the size of a large German Shepherd -- and was grown in England, according to Dr. Sarah Birkhold, poultry specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

- Mature turkeys have 3,500 or so feathers. The Apache Indians considered the turkey timid and wouldn't eat it or use its feathers on their arrows.

- More than 45 million turkeys are cooked and 525 million pounds of turkey are eaten during Thanksgiving.

- Ninety percent of American homes eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Fifty percent eat turkey on Christmas.

- North Carolina produces 61 million turkeys annually, more than any other state. Minnesota and Arkansas are number two and three.

- Benjamin Franklin, the great American statesman, thought the turkey was so American it should have been chosen as our national symbol rather than the eagle.

- The fleshy growth from the base of the beak, which is very long on male turkeys and hangs down over the beak, is called the snood.

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