What do you know about the turkey?

Pre-reading activities

What do you know about the turkey? Do you like to eat turkey? When do you think people eat turkey?

While-reading activities

1. Can you imagine a turkey instead of an eagle on a dollar bill, at the top of a flag pole, and on the presidential seal? That’s exactly what the popular Early American statesman Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he declared that the turkey should be made the symbol of the USA. That may seem absurd today when all we see are supermarket turkeys that end up roasted on the Thanksgiving dinner tables. But the wild turkey of Ben Franklin’s day was a truly American bird that played a big part in the history of the New World.

2. Wild turkeys once inhabited territory all across North America. Before North America was settled, the Native Americans hunted turkeys for food. They also used their feathers for warm winter clothing, and their bones to make tools and weapons. When the European settlers arrived, turkeys became their main source of food.

3. People think turkeys are very dumb because they don’t know enough to come in out of the rain. As a matter of fact, they’ve been known to hold their mouths open during rainstorms and drown! But that’s only true of the domesticated The wild turkey is one of nature’s most cunning creatures. It is a powerful and intelligent bird with beautiful multicolored brown feathers that shine in the sunlight. Turkeys can stand four feet tall. The males, also called toms or gobblers, average 16 pounds. The females, or hens, are over nine pounds. The wild turkey is slim compared with the meaty, domesticated bird, and its neck and legs are longer. Only when toms are courting do they look like the fat turkey that children draw at Thanksgiving. When they spread their tail feathers and puff up the feathers on their bodies, they look like fat, round birds rather than slim, streamlined ones.

4. Wild turkeys are very wary, especially mothers with chicks. They are rarely seen by humans. They hide in the bushes where their natural coloring makes them just about invisible. Unlike the domesticated turkey, the wild bird is a powerful flyer. When it is frightened, the wild turkey spreads its five to six-foot wings and flies away at up to 50 miles per hour. Even on the ground the bird is speedy and can run as fast as 25 miles per hour.

5. These traits may have saved wild turkeys from their natural enemies but they were no match for the European colonists who hunted them nearly to extinction. In the early 1900s people realized that something had to be done to save the wild bird. Therefore, laws were put into effect to limit hunting, and preserves were created. Today there are over one million wild turkeys living in 42 states.

6. Meanwhile, a domesticated variety has been bred by turkey farmers over the years. The result is a tame bird that is very different from its wild cousin, although no less important. The domesticated turkey could never live in the wild because it has lost its ability to survive in nature. It can only live in cages. The mostly white bird cannot fly because it’s too heavy and is so tame that it goes immediately to humans. Like its wild cousin, however, it serves the very important purpose of feeding Americans, who consume almost 600 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving alone. And since nutritionists have proved that turkey is very healthy, it has become as common on the modern daily table as it was for the first settlers.

Vocabulary

What is the meaning of the underlined words?

  1. It seems absurd to have turkey as the symbol of the USA.
    • ideal
    • ridiculous
    • offensive
  2. The domesticated turkey is known to open its mouth during a rainstorm and drown.
    • trained to live with people and serve them
    • living in North America
    • female animal
  3. The wild turkey is one of nature’s most cunning creatures.
    • fierce
    • courageous
    • clever
  4. Tom turkey look fat when they are courting.
    • attracting the attention of females for mating
    • getting ready to fight with other turkeys
    • frightened by people
  5. When turkeys puff up their feathers they do not look slim and streamlined.
    • pear-shaped
    • smooth and compact
    • long and twisted
  6. Wild turkeys are wary and rarely seen by humans.
    • cautious
    • aggressive
    • restless
  7. The traits of the wild turkey save it from its natural enemies.
    • characteristics
    • tricks
    • wisdom
  8. A domesticated variety of turkey has been bred by farmers.
    • improved
    • put in cages
    • made to produce young
  9. The domesticated turkey is a tame bird.
    • well-known
    • harmless
    • unusual
  10. Americans consume almost 600 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
    • waste
    • freeze
    • eat

Comprehension

A. Skimming for main ideas

Circle the best answer.

  1. Paragraph 1 is mainly about
    • the turkey as a truly American bird
    • Ben Franklin’s strange ideas
    • The supermarket turkeys we roast on Thanksgiving Day
  2. The main topic of paragraph 4 is
    • the speed of the wild turkey
    • the characteristics of the wild turkey
    • the size of the wild turkey
  3. The main topic of paragraph 5 is
    • limiting hunting of the wild turkey
    • European colonists hunting the wild turkey
    • saving the wild turkey
  4. The last paragraph is mainly about
    • the health value of eating turkey meat
    • the characteristics and importance of domesticated turkey
    • the amount of turkey meat consumed by Americans

B. Scanning for details

Scan the paragraphs for details. Say if the statement is true or false.

  1. ___ The domesticated turkey does not does not have the ability to survive in the wild.
  2. ___ Wild turkeys have the ability to fly, while domesticated turkeys do not.
  3. ___ Benjamin Franklin was thinking of domesticated turkeys when he said they should be America’s symbol.
  4. ___ Wild turkeys are all one color while domesticated turkeys have many colors.
  5. ___ Many wild turkeys have been known to drown during rainstorms.
  6. ___ When the European settlers arrived, wild turkeys lived in most areas of North America.
  7. ___ In the 1700s people started protecting the turkey and putting them in preserves.
  8. ___ A wild turkey has more meat than a domesticated turkey.
  9. ___ Turkey meat is a popular food in America today.
  10. ___ The female wild turkey is larger than the male.

Order of events

Number the sentences to show the correct order.

______ Native Americans hunt wild turkeys for food.

______ Preserves are created to try to save the wild turkey.

______ Americans buy turkeys in modern supermarkets.

______ European colonists hunt so many wild turkeys that they almost disappear from  America.

______ Benjamin Franklin says the turkey should be made a symbol.

Making inferences and drawing conclusions.

The answers to these questions are not directly stated in the passage. Circle the letter of the best answer.

  1. From the passage, it can be concluded that
    • the turkey has been an important food source for hundreds of years.
    • people have not been successful in protecting the wild turkey from extinction.
    • wild turkeys can easily be seen and caught in their natural environment.
  2. It can be inferred from the passage that
    • Benjamin Franklin should not have been a statesman.
    • the European colonists didn’t like to eat turkey.
    • the Native American had many uses for the turkey.
  3. The passage implies that
    • wild turkeys have very different characteristics from the domesticated turkeys.
    • wild turkeys don’t have any way to escape from their natural enemies.
    • the wild turkey is a slow awkward bird.

Discussion

Discuss the answers to these questions with your classmates.

  1. What is the most popular holiday food in your country?
  2. Do you think animals should be given substances to make them grow bigger for market?
  3. What animals are considered stupid?
  4. Do you think it is cruel to raise cattle and poultry in crowded indoor cages?

Writing

Composition: Do you think humans should eat meat or should they be vegetarians? Give two reasons for your argument.

Research

Look up the answers to the following questions.

Which birds do not fly? Name three.

________________________________________________________________________________

Which birds besides the turkey are eaten? Name five.

________________________________________________________________________________

Which birds live by the seashore? Name five.

________________________________________________________________________________

Which birds have feathers that are useful to humans? Name two.

________________________________________________________________________________

What is the smallest bird and the biggest bird in North America?

________________________________________________________________________________

Why do we call a turkey a “turkey”?

It’s not exactly clear how the turkey got its name, but these are three good possibilities: Columbus thought he was in India when he encountered his first New-World turkey. There are a lot of peacocks in India, and Columbus thought the finely-plumed turkey was one of its relatives. He called it “tuka” which is India’s Tamil word for peacock. Turkeys actually originated in North and Central America and have existed for about 10 million years.

All turkeys do “turk” when they are frightened, but did you know that only male turkeys gobble! Female turkeys make a clicking noise.

Many Native American tribes ate wild and domesticated turkey, but others wouldn’t touch the stuff. The Apache, for example, thought the turkey was a timid bird and wouldn’t eat it or use its feathers on their arrows.

The wild turkey is one of the world’s fastest birds

It’s true – believe it or not. These birds can really cook! Wild turkeys can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles an hour. But they prefer their feet on the ground where they can run up to 30 miles an hour. Domesticated turkeys – the ones that end up in the grocer’s freezer – are so light on their feet. They can’t fly.

Why is it an insult to call someone a turkey?

Turkeys have developed quite an unsavory reputation. They are rather dim. Tom Tyson, a free-range turkey farmer in Hartland, Michigan, says that if you don’t put stones in their water trough, they’ll stick their heads all the way in and drown. But it doesn’t stop there. Turkey are also mean when they are in a group or “flock”. Tyson has seen them attack the family dog. And to make matters worse, they smell too, but only when they are wet. Tyson says, “There’s nothing worse than the smell of wet poultry”.

What do you call the bright red thing that hangs under a turkey’s chin?

The wattle is the loose skin that hangs below a turkey’s beak. If you thought “snood”, you would have been close. The snood is also red, but it starts at the base of the turkey’s beak and hangs over the top.

Turkey Trivia

  • Americans eat over 75 million turkeys each year, most of them at Thanksgiving time.
  • The Cheyenne people would not eat turkey. They believed it would make them cowards, like the turkey who runs away whenever threatened.
  • A male turkey is called a tom. A female turkey is called a hen. Young turkeys are called poults.
  • Turkey eggs are twice as big as chicken eggs.
  • The fold of skin at the front of a turkey’s neck is called its wattle.
  • The turkey is native to North and South America – the only kind of poultry that is.
  • A wild turkey can fly up to 55 miles per hour.
  • The largest turkey can weigh up to 50 pounds.

Unusual and Surprising Facts about Turkeys

  • Turkeys actually originated in North and Central America and have existed for about 10 million years.
  • The turkey is native to North and South America – the only kind of poultry that is.
  • American statesman Benjamin Franklin declared that the turkey should be made the symbol of the USA.
  • The Native Americans hunted turkeys for food. They also used their feathers for warm winter clothing, and their bones to make tools and weapons.
  • The Cheyenne people would not eat turkey. They believed it would make them cowards, like the turkey who runs away whenever threatened.
  • A male turkey is called a tom. A female turkey is called a hen. Young turkeys are called poults.
  • All turkeys do “turk” when they are frightened, but did you know that only male turkeys gobble. Female turkeys make a clicking noise.
  • The wild turkey is one of nature’s most cunning creatures. It is a powerful and intelligent bird with beautiful multicolored brown feathers.
  • Turkeys can stand four feet tall. The males, also called toms or gobblers, average 16 pounds. The females, or hens, are over nine pounds.
  • The wild turkey is one of the world’s fastest birds. Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles an hour and  run up to 30 miles an hour.
  • The European colonists hunted turkeys nearly to extinction. Laws were put into effect to limit hunting, and preserves were created. Today there are over one million wild turkeys living in 42 states.
  • People think turkeys are very dumb because they don’t know enough to come in out of the rain. They’ve been known to hold their mouths open during rainstorms and drown!
  • It is an insult to call someone a turkey because they are dim and also mean when they are in a group or “flock”. They smell too when they are wet.
  • Americans eat over 75 million turkeys each year, most of them at Thanksgiving time.
  • Turkey eggs are twice as big as chicken eggs. A turkey produces only about two eggs per week.