The Humble Turkey – genus Meleagris

A rafter of turkeys
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The Humble Turkey: Turkeys are amazing animals. They are highly social, intelligent, and their plumage is absolutely beautiful.

Two Beautiful Turkeys with shimmering green and copper plumage

Two Beautiful Ocellated Turkeys with shimmering green and copper plumage. Image Source: istock photos

 

The Evolution of the Turkey

Turkeys and peacocks are distant cousins separated between about 5 to 10 million years of evolution. Through genetic analysis, it appears that peacocks and turkeys share a common ancestor but are on different clades. See image below:

Galliform Tree

Galliform Tree: Courtesy: Sci-American.

Morphological evidence tends to place them closer to each other on the family tree but arguments against this idea cite convergent and re-emergent evolution to explain any homoplastic similarities.

Geography

Turkeys are found in all of the states except Alaska. There are many varieties of turkey now in the world due to introducing them and selective breeding, with the Meleagris gallopavo species being the most common in the Americas. The Broad Breasted White breed of this species is the most consumed in North America whereas the Ocellated breeds are more common in Mexico and South America.

Diet

Turkeys eat a variety of organisms and vegetation. They will eat everything from acorns, to spiders, to lizards. Wild turkeys obtain most of their water from morning dew and tend to stick near water sources.

Behavior

Turkeys are incredibly social creatures, recognizing members of their own group versus outsiders (including humans). They have a hierarchy among their groups and are very protective of others in their group. They are smart enough to know their names and when bonded with human caregivers they enjoy being petted and cuddled.

Beatrice The Turkey Snuggling with caretakers

Beatrice The Turkey Snuggling with caretakers. Image Source: Free From Harm

Lifecycle

Wild and domestic turkeys live for about 10 years. Wild turkeys lay between 6-17 eggs whereas domestic turkeys are a little less on average. Turkeys lay eggs in the ground and once the chicks are old enough, about 2 weeks, they can then roost in the trees with their parents. Wild turkeys become sexually mature at around a year of age. Turkeys bred for the food industry can be sexually mature as early as 5 months and are usually impregnated forcibly.

After hatching, like any baby bird, newborn turkey chicks make calls which typically allow a mother to respond and nurture them. Sadly, in captivity, they are born without maternal care, their calls are all for naught. Instead, they quickly bond with and trust human caregivers[sic] and machines, which is troubling as slaughter is the inevitable result. In the wild, chicks are protected by their mothers and just after a few days of hatching, poults (turkey chicks) begin foraging behaviors which constitute scratching at the ground and pecking. Baby male chicks are ground up alive, never having protection from their moms and never developing that signature cute foraging behavior.

Baby Turkey Chicks Crowded Together

Baby Turkey Chicks: Image Source: UPC-Online

Turkeys in the wild can fly short distances and exhibit far more complex individual and social behaviors. Rescued turkeys slowly begin to show similar behaviors when allowed to live safely in a sanctuary. Sadly, as many rescued turkeys have purposefully mutilated beaks and feet, they tend to have trouble feeding, walking, and roosting.

Wild Turkeys Roosting in Trees

A rafter of Wild Turkeys Roosting in Trees: Image Source: NWTF

 

Drowning the Rain?

It is a myth that turkeys are dumb animals that respond to rain by staring at the sky and drowning. Due to selective breeding, many turkeys have a genetic condition called tetanic torticollar spasms which causes them to lock up and stare at the sky for 30 seconds or more, yes, even when it is raining; however, they don’t drown. To be fair, there are humans that have similar conditions but they are not typically considered incompetent.

Hunting

Turkeys are hunted often in America for sport and food. Most states require a license and only certain munitions can be used. New health research about this practice has come into question as lead has been reported in game from use of munitions with lead. Lead microfragments become lodged into the meat and is consumed by hunters and their families. Game hunters have 50% or more chance of having lead intoxication than non-game hunters. Karma much?

Thanksgiving

Thankful Turkey

Thankful Turkey: Image Source: GoVegr.com

Turkey is considered a given at many omnivorous Thanksgiving meals. It’s estimated that almost 50 million turkeys are slaughtered every Thanksgiving and over 300 million every year in the US alone. The difficult part about this is that it doesn’t have to be happening. No human needs turkey to live. We are destroying innocent sentient beings purposefully for nothing more than taste and tradition. Consider skipping the animal flesh and blood on Thanksgiving and give these beautiful creatures a rest. There are many vegan options that are just as tasty. “But turkey is delicious!”, I have been told. Participating in an animal holocaust for the sake of satisfying one’s taste buds is cruel and evil. Turkey is “delicious” primarily due to the proportions of sodium, glutamate, and ribonucleotides within its flesh. All of which are found in plant foods. I am saddened to see other humans gleefully participating in the senseless murder, suffering, pain, and death of highly sentient beings. They have done nothing to us to deserve such a fate. Please consider delicious alternatives.

 

Plant-based Roast

Plant-based Roast: Image Source: Field Roast

Video

Watch this Rescued Turkey on an Animal Sanctuary:

 

 

Resources

 

Don’t Support This! Please. They Need You!

Chicken boiled alive - dead

Chicken boiled alive – Now Dead: Image Source: PETA

Header image source: istock photo

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