Turkey (bird)

Last updated

Turkey
Temporal range: 23–0  Ma
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Early Miocene – Recent
Male wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) strutting.jpg
A male wild turkey strutting
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Subfamily: Phasianinae
Tribe: Tetraonini
Genus: Meleagris
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Meleagris gallopavo (wild turkey)
Linnaeus, 1758
Species
Egg of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Meleagris gallopavo MHNT.ZOO.2010.11.9.30.jpg
Egg of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

The turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris, native to North America. There are two extant turkey species: the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) of eastern and central North America and the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Males of both turkey species have a distinctive fleshy wattle, called a snood, that hangs from the top of the beak. They are among the largest birds in their ranges. As with many large ground-feeding birds (order Galliformes), the male is bigger and much more colorful than the female.

Contents

Although native to North America, the turkey probably got its name from the domesticated variety being imported to Britain in ships coming from the Levant via Spain. The British at the time therefore associated the bird with the country Turkey and the name prevailed. [1] [2] [3] An alternative theory posits that another bird, a guinea fowl native to Madagascar introduced to England by Turkish merchants, was the original source, and that the term was then transferred to the New World bird by English colonizers with knowledge of the previous species. [4]

A male ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) with a blue head Meleagris ocellata1.jpg
A male ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) with a blue head

The earliest turkeys evolved in North America over 20 million years ago. They share a recent common ancestor with grouse, pheasants, and other fowl. The wild turkey species is the ancestor of the domestic turkey, which was domesticated approximately 2,000 years ago.

Taxonomy

The genus Meleagris was introduced in 1758 by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae . [5] The genus name is from the Ancient Greek μελεαγρις, meleagris meaning "guineafowl". [6] The type species is the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). [7]

Turkeys are classed in the family Phasianidae (pheasants, partridges, francolins, junglefowl, grouse, and relatives thereof) in the taxonomic order Galliformes. [8] They are close relatives of the grouse and are classified alongside them in the tribe Tetraonini. [9]

Extant species

The genus contains two species. [10]

MaleFemaleScientific nameCommon nameDistribution
Wildturkey.jpg Wild turkey Point Pelee NP 2014.jpg Meleagris gallopavo Wild turkey and domestic turkey The forests of North America, from Mexico (where they were first domesticated in Mesoamerica) [11] throughout the midwestern and eastern United States and into southeastern Canada
Ocellated Turkey.jpg Meleagris ocellata -Guatemala-8a.jpg Meleagris ocellata Ocellated turkey The forests of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico [12]

Fossil species

Names

Plate 1 of The Birds of America by John James Audubon, depicting a wild turkey 1 Wild Turkey.jpg
Plate 1 of The Birds of America by John James Audubon, depicting a wild turkey

The linguist Mario Pei proposes two possible explanations for the name turkey. [14] One theory suggests that when Europeans first encountered turkeys in the Americas, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl, which were already being imported into Europe by Turkey merchants via Constantinople. The birds were therefore nicknamed turkey coqs. The name of the North American bird may have then become turkey fowl or Indian turkeys, which was eventually shortened to turkeys. [14] [15] [16]

A second theory arises from turkeys coming to England not directly from the Americas, but via merchant ships from the Middle East, where they were domesticated successfully. Again the importers lent the name to the bird; hence turkey-cocks and turkey-hens, and soon thereafter, turkeys. [14] [17]

In 1550, the English navigator William Strickland, who had introduced the turkey into England, was granted a coat of arms including a "turkey-cock in his pride proper". [18] William Shakespeare used the term in Twelfth Night , [19] believed to be written in 1601 or 1602. The lack of context around his usage suggests that the term was already widespread.[ citation needed ]

Other European names for turkeys incorporate an assumed Indian origin, such as dinde ('from India') in French, индюшка (indyushka, 'bird of India') in Russian, indyk in Polish and Ukrainian, and hindi ('Indian') in Turkish. These are thought to arise from the supposed belief of Christopher Columbus that he had reached India rather than the Americas on his voyage. [14] In Portuguese a turkey is a peru; the name is thought to derive from 'Peru'. [20]

Several other birds that are sometimes called turkeys are not particularly closely related: the brushturkeys are megapodes, and the bird sometimes known as the Australian turkey is the Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis). The anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) is sometimes called the water turkey, from the shape of its tail when the feathers are fully spread for drying.[ citation needed ]

An infant turkey is called a chick or poult. [21] [22]

History

Depiction of ocellated turkeys in Maya codices according to the 1910 book, Animal figures in the Maya codices by Alfred Tozzer and Glover Morrill Allen Animal figures in the Maya codices (Plate 16) BHL41003948.jpg
Depiction of ocellated turkeys in Maya codices according to the 1910 book, Animal figures in the Maya codices by Alfred Tozzer and Glover Morrill Allen

Turkeys were likely first domesticated in Pre-Columbian Mexico, where they held a cultural and symbolic importance. [24] [25] The Classical Nahuatl word for the turkey, huehxōlō-tl (guajolote in Spanish), is still used in modern Mexico, in addition to the general term pavo. Mayan aristocrats and priests appear to have had a special connection to ocellated turkeys, with ideograms of those birds appearing in Mayan manuscripts. [26] Spanish chroniclers, including Bernal Díaz del Castillo and Father Bernardino de Sahagún, describe the multitude of food (both raw fruits and vegetables as well as prepared dishes) that were offered in the vast markets ( tianguis ) of Tenochtitlán, noting there were tamales made of turkeys, iguanas, chocolate, vegetables, fruits and more.[ citation needed ]

Turkeys were first exported to Europe via Spain around 1519, where they gained immediate popularity among the aristocratic classes. [27] Turkeys arrived in England in 1541. From there, English settlers brought turkeys to North America during the 17th century. [24]

Destruction and re-introduction in the United States

In what is now the United States, there were an estimated 10 million turkeys in the 17th century. By the 1930s, only 30,000 remained. [28] In the 1960s and 1970s, biologists started trapping wild turkeys from the few places they remained (including the Ozarks [28] and New York [29] ), and re-introducing them into other states, including Minnesota [28] and Vermont [29] .

Human conflicts with wild turkeys

Turkeys have been known to be aggressive toward humans and pets in residential areas. [30] Wild turkeys have a social structure and pecking order and habituated turkeys may respond to humans and animals as they do other turkeys. Habituated turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that the birds view as subordinates. [31]

In 2017, the town of Brookline, Massachusetts, recommended a controversial approach when confronted with wild turkeys. Besides taking a step forward to intimidate the birds, officials also suggested "making noise (clanging pots or other objects together); popping open an umbrella; shouting and waving your arms; squirting them with a hose; allowing your leashed dog to bark at them; and forcefully fending them off with a broom". [32] This advice was quickly rescinded and replaced with a caution that "being aggressive toward wild turkeys is not recommended by State wildlife officials.” [33]

Fossil record

A number of turkeys have been described from fossils. The Meleagridinae are known from the Early Miocene (c.23 mya) onwards, with the extinct genera Rhegminornis (Early Miocene of Bell, U.S.) and Proagriocharis (Kimball Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Lime Creek, U.S.). The former is probably a basal turkey, the other a more contemporary bird not very similar to known turkeys; both were much smaller birds. A turkey fossil not assignable to genus but similar to Meleagris is known from the Late Miocene of Westmoreland County, Virginia. [12] In the modern genus Meleagris, a considerable number of species have been described, as turkey fossils are robust and fairly often found, and turkeys show great variation among individuals. Many of these supposed fossilized species are now considered junior synonyms. One, the well-documented California turkey Meleagris californica, [34] became extinct recently enough to have been hunted by early human settlers. [35] It has been suggested that its demise was due to the combined pressures of human hunting and climate change at the end of the last glacial period. [36]

The Oligocene fossil Meleagris antiquus was first described by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1871. It has since been reassigned to the genus Paracrax , first interpreted as a cracid, then soon after as a bathornithid Cariamiformes.

Fossil species

Turkeys have been considered by many authorities to be their own family—the Meleagrididae—but a recent genomic analysis of a retrotransposon marker groups turkeys in the family Phasianidae. [37] In 2010, a team of scientists published a draft sequence of the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) genome. [38]

Anatomy

Anatomical structures on the head and throat of a domestic turkey. 1. caruncles, 2. snood, 3. wattle (dewlap), 4. major caruncle, 5. beard Anatomy of turkey head.jpg
Anatomical structures on the head and throat of a domestic turkey. 1. caruncles, 2. snood, 3. wattle (dewlap), 4. major caruncle, 5. beard

In anatomical terms, a snood is an erectile, fleshy protuberance on the forehead of turkeys. Most of the time when the turkey is in a relaxed state, the snood is pale and 2–3 cm long. However, when the male begins strutting (the courtship display), the snood engorges with blood, becomes redder and elongates several centimeters, hanging well below the beak (see image). [39] [40]

Snoods are just one of the caruncles (small, fleshy excrescences) that can be found on turkeys. [41]

While fighting, commercial turkeys often peck and pull at the snood, causing damage and bleeding. [42] This often leads to further injurious pecking by other turkeys and sometimes results in cannibalism. To prevent this, some farmers cut off the snood when the chick is young, a process known as "de-snooding". [43]

The snood can be between 3 to 15 centimetres (1 to 6 in) in length depending on the turkey's sex, health, and mood. [44]

Function

The snood functions in both intersexual and intrasexual selection. Captive female wild turkeys prefer to mate with long-snooded males, and during dyadic interactions, male turkeys defer to males with relatively longer snoods. These results were demonstrated using both live males and controlled artificial models of males. Data on the parasite burdens of free-living wild turkeys revealed a negative correlation between snood length and infection with intestinal coccidia, deleterious protozoan parasites. This indicates that in the wild, the long-snooded males preferred by females and avoided by males seemed to be resistant to coccidial infection. [45] [46]

Use by humans

A roast turkey surrounded by a Christmas log cake, gravy, sparkling apple cider and vegetables Turkeyset.JPG
A roast turkey surrounded by a Christmas log cake, gravy, sparkling apple cider and vegetables

The species Meleagris gallopavo is eaten by humans. They were first domesticated by the indigenous people of Mexico from at least 800 BC onwards. [47] By 200 BC, the indigenous people of what is today the American Southwest had domesticated turkeys; though the theory that they were introduced from Mexico was once influential, modern studies suggest that the turkeys of the Southwest were domesticated independently from those in Mexico. Turkeys were used both as a food source and for their feathers and bones, which were used in both practical and cultural contexts. [48] Compared to wild turkeys, domestic turkeys are selectively bred to grow larger in size for their meat. [49] [50]

Turkey forms a central part of modern Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States of America, and is often eaten at similar holiday occasions, such as Christmas. [51] [52]

The Norfolk turkeys

In her memoirs, Lady Dorothy Nevill (1826–1913) [53] recalls that her great-grandfather Horatio Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1723–1809), imported a quantity of American turkeys which were kept in the woods around Wolterton Hall [53] and in all probability were the embryo flock for the popular Norfolk turkey breeds of today.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Poultry</span> Domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, meat, or feathers

Poultry are domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes. The term also includes birds that are killed for their meat, such as the young of pigeons but does not include similar wild birds hunted for sport or food and known as game. The word "poultry" comes from the French/Norman word poule, itself derived from the Latin word pullus, which means small animal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chicken or the egg</span> Philosophical paradox

The chicken or the egg causality dilemma is commonly stated as the question, "which came first: the chicken or the egg?" The dilemma stems from the observation that all chickens hatch from eggs and all chicken eggs are laid by chickens. "Chicken-and-egg" is a metaphoric adjective describing situations where it is not clear which of two events should be considered the cause and which should be considered the effect, to express a scenario of infinite regress, or to express the difficulty of sequencing actions where each seems to depend on others being done first. Plutarch posed the question as a philosophical matter in his essay "The Symposiacs", written in the 1st century CE.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chicken</span> Domesticated species of bird

The chicken is a domesticated junglefowl species, with attributes of wild species such as the grey and the Ceylon junglefowl that are originally from Southeastern Asia. Rooster or cock is a term for an adult male bird, and a younger male may be called a cockerel. A male that has been castrated is a capon. An adult female bird is called a hen and a sexually immature female is called a pullet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grouse</span> Tribe of birds

Grouse are a group of birds from the order Galliformes, in the family Phasianidae. Grouse are presently assigned to the tribe Tetraonini, a classification supported by mitochondrial DNA sequence studies, and applied by the American Ornithologists' Union, ITIS, International Ornithological Congress, and others. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from pine forests to moorland and mountainside, from 83°N to 28°N. Turkeys are closely related to grouse and are also classified in the tribe Tetraonini. The koklass pheasant is also closely allied with them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Galliformes</span> Order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds

Galliformes is an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds that includes turkeys, chickens, quail, and other landfowl. Gallinaceous birds, as they are called, are important in their ecosystems as seed dispersers and predators, and are often reared by humans for their meat and eggs, or hunted as game birds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phasianidae</span> Family of birds

The Phasianidae are a family of heavy, ground-living birds, which includes pheasants, partridges, junglefowl, chickens, turkeys, Old World quail, and peafowl. The family includes many of the most popular gamebirds. The family is a large one and includes 185 species divided into 54 genera. It was formerly broken up into two subfamilies, the Phasianinae and the Perdicinae. However, this treatment is now known to be paraphyletic and polyphyletic, respectively, and more recent evidence supports breaking it up into two subfamilies: Rollulinae and Phasianinae, with the latter containing multiple tribes within two clades. The New World quail (Odontophoridae) and guineafowl (Numididae) were formerly sometimes included in this family, but are now typically placed in families of their own; conversely, grouse and turkeys, formerly often treated as distinct families, are now known to be deeply nested within Phasianidae, so they are now included in the present family.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guineafowl</span> Family of birds

Guineafowl are birds of the family Numididae in the order Galliformes. They are endemic to Africa and rank among the oldest of the gallinaceous birds. Phylogenetically, they branched off from the core Galliformes after the Cracidae and before the Odontophoridae. An Eocene fossil lineage Telecrex has been associated with guineafowl; Telecrex inhabited Mongolia, and may have given rise to the oldest of the true phasianids, such as blood pheasants and eared pheasants, which evolved into high-altitude, montane-adapted species with the rise of the Tibetan Plateau. While modern guineafowl species are endemic to Africa, the helmeted guineafowl has been introduced as a domesticated bird widely elsewhere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Domestic turkey</span> Species of bird

The domestic turkey is a large fowl, one of the two species in the genus Meleagris and the same species as the wild turkey. Although turkey domestication was thought to have occurred in central Mesoamerica at least 2,000 years ago, recent research suggests a possible second domestication event in the area that is now the southwestern United States between 200 BC and AD 500. However, all of the main domestic turkey varieties today descend from the turkey raised in central Mexico that was subsequently imported into Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helmeted guineafowl</span> Species of guineafowl

The helmeted guineafowl is the best known of the guineafowl bird family, Numididae, and the only member of the genus Numida. It is native to Africa, mainly south of the Sahara, and has been widely introduced, as a domesticated species, into the West Indies, North America, Brazil, Australia and Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wild turkey</span> Species of turkey native to North America

The wild turkey is an upland ground bird native to North America, one of two extant species of turkey and the heaviest member of the order Galliformes. It is the ancestor to the domestic turkey, which was originally derived from a southern Mexican subspecies of wild turkey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">California condor</span> Large New World vulture, North America

The California condor is a New World vulture and the largest North American land bird. It became extinct in the wild in 1987 when all remaining wild individuals were captured, but has since been reintroduced to northern Arizona and southern Utah, the coastal mountains of California, and northern Baja California in Mexico. Although four other fossil members are known, it is the only surviving member of the genus Gymnogyps. The species is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as Critically Endangered, and similarly considered Critically Imperiled by NatureServe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Muscovy duck</span> Species of bird

The Muscovy duck is a large duck native to the Americas, from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Mexico south to Argentina and Uruguay. Small wild and feral breeding populations have established themselves in the United States, particularly in Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as in many other parts of North America, including southern Canada. Feral Muscovy ducks are found in New Zealand, Australia, and in parts of Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ocellated turkey</span> Species of turkey native to (Yucatan Peninsula) Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize

The ocellated turkey is a species of turkey residing primarily in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, as well as in parts of Belize and Guatemala. A relative of the North American wild turkey, it was sometimes previously considered in a genus of its own (Agriocharis), but the differences between the two turkeys are currently considered too small to justify generic segregation. It is a relatively large bird, at around 70–122 cm (28–48 in) long and an average weight of 3 kg (6.6 lb) in females and 5 kg (11 lb) in males.

Gamebird hybrids are the result of crossing species of game birds, including ducks, with each other and with domestic poultry. These hybrid species may sometimes occur naturally in the wild or more commonly through the deliberate or inadvertent intervention of humans.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wattle (anatomy)</span> Fleshy growth on the head or neck of a bird

A wattle is a fleshy caruncle hanging from various parts of the head or neck in several groups of birds and mammals. Caruncles in birds include those found on the face, wattles, dewlaps, snoods, and earlobes. Wattles are generally paired structures, but may occur as a single structure when it is sometimes known as a dewlap. Wattles are frequently organs of sexual dimorphism. In some birds, caruncles are erectile tissue and may or may not have a feather covering.

Turkeypox virus is a virus of the family Poxviridae and the genus Avipoxvirus that causes turkeypox. It is one of the most common diseases in the wild turkey population. Turkeypox, like all avipoxviruses, is transmitted either through skin contact or by arthropods acting as mechanical vectors.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Turkey hunting</span>

Turkey hunting is a sport involving the pursuit of the elusive wild bunker. Long before the European settlers arrived in North America, the Native Americans took part in hunting wild turkeys.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Californian turkey</span> Extinct species of bird

The Californian turkey is an extinct species of turkey indigenous to the Pleistocene and early Holocene of California. It has been estimated that the Californian turkey went extinct about 10,000 years ago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Narragansett turkey</span> Breed of turkey

The Narragansett turkey is a breed of Meleagris gallopavo which descends from a cross between the eastern wild turkey and the domestic turkey. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the Narragansett turkey is a "historic variety, unique to North America" and is named for Narragansett Bay.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fauna of Florida</span> Fauna of the US state of Florida

Florida hosts many types of fauna. From coral reefs of the Florida Keys to the cypress swamps of the Panhandle, the state's diverse habitats are home to a variety of wildlife. Florida is among the top five states in terms of endemic species. There are over 700 terrestrial animals, 200 freshwater fish species, 1,000 marine fish and thousands of terrestrial insects and other invertebrates that inhabit the state. Florida's peninsular geography spans from subtropical to tropical zones, which, combined with its distinctive geology and climate, contribute to habitat diversity and an array of species. The native wildlife that exists in the state are of temperate and tropical origin.

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