The national bird – that’s what Ben Franklin famously thought the turkey should be. It was, he wrote, “a much more respectable bird” than the eagle, which he considered to be “a rank coward”. He thought the turkey to be “a true original native of America, and a bird of courage” that would willingly attack any grenadier of the British Guards who dared to invade his farm.
He was correct in thinking that the tom turkey would aggressively protect itself, as many a stroller or golfer who has come too close to one can attest. But he was wrong in thinking that turkeys were native to the United States, although today they can be found in every state except Alaska. They were first encountered by 16th-century European explorers arriving in Mexico, where turkeys had been bred for centuries, making it one of only two birds native to the Americas (the other being the Muscovy duck). Imported to Europe and the Middle East, the birds reminded traders of the African guinea fowl that came to them along trade routes passing through Turkey, and thus came to be called “Turkey birds.”
To read more about our almost national bird – the turkey – as well as other articles from SINHG, click here.
Seabrook Island Natural History Group is one of the island’s oldest and largest special interest groups dedicated to exploring the ecology, history, and culture of the Carolina Lowcountry. For more information about SINHG, click here.
-Submitted by Seabrook Island Natural History Group
(Image credits: Seabrook Island Natural History Group)