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The Curse and Blessing of Wild Turkeys

(With assistance from www.audubon.org)

With Paradise Valley Estates’ suburban, nearly rural surroundings, there are many opportunities to interact with area wildlife. No animal presents more opportunities to interact than the wild turkeys that abound on our campus.

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Some would say way too many opportunities. While it is true that they can be a nuisance, perhaps more credit is due. John James Audubon described the birds as “one of the most interesting of the birds indigenous to the United States of America.”

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Here are a few interesting facts you may not know about our fascinating feathered friends:

1. The one surprising fact you might think you know is that Benjamin Franklin wanted it to be the National Bird. That’s not quite accurate—it was more that he was opposed to the Bald Eagle. Franklin said he considered the bird to be of “bad moral character”. He thought the turkey was more respectable and courageous.

2. Turkeys are named after the country. The theory is that turkeys reminded early Europeans of the African Guinea Fowl, which came to Europe through Turkey.
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3. Despite their size and weight, they sleep in trees during the night. (I’ve seen them, it’s a little creepy.)

4. The first presidential turkey pardon didn’t happen until 1989, by George H.W. Bush, not back in the days of Abraham Lincoln, as some believe.

5. Best way to determine if it is a male or female? Check its poop. A turkey’s gender can be determined from its droppings–a male’s will be shaped like the letter J, a female’s more spiral-shaped.
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6. Wild Turkeys can fly at up to 60 miles per hour.

7. They have excellent vision, seeing three times more clearly than 20/20. Turkeys can also see in color and have a 270-degree field of vision.

8. Wild Turkey populations plummeted in the 19thcentury due to popularity as a game bird and loss of habitat, disappearing entirely from New England. The comment in our office was, “That’s because they all came to Northern California!”
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