Monday, November 23, 2015

Rerun Article: The Gobbling Turkey - More than a Thanksgiving Food

Well, November is almost over and I am still trying hard to finish my 50,000-word novel on time. So far, I have reached about 36,468 words. Yet, I am only about halfway through the story! It will likely be much longer than 50,000 words. Lord willing, I will at least get 50,000 done on time!

What do you know, Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Don't you just love this time of year? If not, you should. So let's get started with:

Days till:
It is: 2 days till The Good Dinosaur's theatrical release!
It is: 3 days till Thanksgiving
It is: 31 days till Christmas

In the Spotlight:
Pixar has been at it for years - rumors of this company making a dinosaur movie have been around since Up. The Good Dinosaur is that movie and it is finally coming to life! So naturally, since it is coming out in theaters in a measly two days, here is a new TV spot for the film!

And in addition to that, I have also found some fossilized clips from the movie itself:

Remind me never to mess with Butch! That guy's tough! Those raptors are pretty nasty too, I can't wait to see them in the movie.

Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Thanksgiving is normally a time of giving thanks and eating. There's one meal item that just about everyone eats; I'm talking about, a bird loved by millions – Meleagris gallopavo, otherwise known as the turkey. This bird is a common species that is found all over the United States. When my family was living in North Carolina, Vermont and New York (yeah, my family's lived a lot of places in my time), we often saw flocks of these birds on their search for food, often just outside out house. Despite the popularity of the turkey, many myths have been made up about these birds and a lot of people don't know much about these birds except the fact that it tastes really good. So let's learn more about America's favorite bird! (Next to the bald eagle, perhaps).

The is often thought of as just Thanksgiving dinner. But there's so much about the turkey that most people don't know. Read on to learn more about the turkey!
The turkey (also known as the wild turkey) is in the Phasianid family, which also contains chickens, pheasants, partridges, junglefowls, quails and peacocks. All these birds are probably in same baramin, also called a “created kind” – one of the original created kinds of animals God made. Being a bird, God created the first member of the Phasianid family on Day 5 of the Creation week recorded in Genesis chapter one (remember that it says “every winged fowl”). It might also be handy to know that the domestic turkey is a descendant of their wild ancestors. However, we're mainly going to talk about the wild turkey today. There's a lot more to these simple-looking birds than what meets the eye. (For instance, did you know that it's a myth that turkeys hold their heads up when its raining so that they drown?) So what makes a turkey a turkey?

Turkeys are known for their characteristic red and/or bluish heads and the fleshy growth on their beaks, known as a "snood".
Well, to start it off, the turkey has a long legs, a feathery body, a relatively small head and beak and, on males, one of the most noticeable features – that fleshy growth on a male turkey's (or tom's) beak. That “fleshy growth” is called a snood. A tom gets up to 49 inches long and weighs 11-24 pounds. A female turkey, also called a hen, stretches 30-37 inches long and weighs 5.5-12 pounds. Toms and hens have quite a few differences between each other. As you might have guessed based on the size and weight estimates mentioned above, toms are larger than hens. Toms are also the only ones to have a snood. The turkey also has the second heaviest weight of any North American bird. Did you know that turkeys also have the amazing ability to change the color of their skin according to their mood? For instance, if the head and neck are rather white, that means that the turkey is excited. The color of a turkey's skin can range from brilliant shades of red, blue and white.

The reddish-brown color represents where wild turkeys live.
Domestic turkey's are plump birds and can't fly. Wild turkeys, however, are agile fliers. Another interesting fact you might not have known about these birds is that they're omnivores, eating a variety of things they find on the ground. Some foods they eat are nuts, seeds, berries, roots, grasses and insects. Sometimes turkeys have been known to consume amphibians and small reptiles (e.g. lizards and snakes)! That's what I call a varied diet! If you want to watch wild turkeys feeding, the best time to be on the lookout for them would be early in the morning or in the late afternoon because these are their favorite times to feed. Turkeys sometimes can be found alone, but they are generally social birds, roaming their range in relatively small flocks.

This flock of both toms and hens is foraging.
Turkeys are one of many species of animals that are polygamous. This is a fancy term that means one male will mate with as many hens as they can. Turkey courtship starts in March and April and this is when toms like to strut their stuff . . . literally! When trying to attract hens, a male turkey will puff out their feathers, drag their wings and, much like a peacock, they'll fan out their tail feathers. This sort of behavior is also known as strutting. After mating season is over, it is time for hens to build and nest and lay the next generation of turkeys. Normally laying 10-14 eggs over a period of 10-14 days (they most often lay one egg per day) in a shallow depression in the dirt covered in woody vegetation, the eggs take at least 28 days to hatch. Soon, it's time for the eggs to hatch! Baby turkey's are called poults, and even though they can leave the nest 12-24 hours after hatching, they'll continue to follow their mother around for four to five months as they mature.

In this photo, we can see a mother turkey with her poults. Aren't they cute?
It's a plain fact – turkeys are found delectable to many different species of animals at just about every stage of life! Poults and eggs are often picked off by opposums, raccoons, skunks, foxes, birds of prey, groundhogs (unbelievable, right?), other rodents and snakes . . . and those are just predators of the young! Predators of both young and adult turkeys include coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, eagles, great horned owls, domestic dogs and (especially in the fall) humans! Humans are actually the top predators of these large birds; so much so that we've domesticated these birds to meet the demand. When faced with danger, most turkeys will run away rather than fly (though they'll fly at times for short distances), but when push comes to shove, turkeys can defend themselves. Large toms especially can be extremely aggressive toward predators; when faced with danger, they can fight with the spurs on the back of their legs, bite with their beaks and bump their large bodies against predators. Many small to mid-sized mammals are deterred by a turkey's defense methods. So long as a human doesn't have a gun, a large turkey will also occasionally fight off a human being, especially where natural habitats are rare. So if you see turkeys in the wild, it's best to give them space and let them forage, undisturbed.

The turkey really is an amazing bird!
The turkey is quite a survivor. And for good reason – they're smarter, have more complex behavior than we give them credit for and can even put up a good fight at times. So this Thanksgiving, instead of merely thinking of the main course of your Thanksgiving's Day meal as good food, but think of it as the amazing, un-dumb and beautifully designed bird God created it to be!
Disclaimer: Many (or in some cases all) of the photographs and images above are not mine. If you own one or more of them and would like them to be removed, politely let me know via one or both of the email addresses above.

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