June 6, 2000

Talkin' Turkey

Finally, a quiet day to stay home, catch up on some housework and do some serious surfing... in the process of which I was reminded of an incident during a trip to Albany NY early in 1999.

We were in Albany to celebrate the first birthday of our great-niece. Hubby practically grew up with her father (our nephew) and they remained close even after he married an American girl and moved to Albany. We stayed overnight in a motel because the parents' place is small and I'm allergic to their bird (a huffy white cockatiel).

We woke up to a dreary grey January morning and went to the lobby for coffee. A glance out the window revealed a startling sight.. about a dozen HUGE birds were pecking at the snowy lawn under the trees. These weren't crows, ducks, or even geese. These were MAJOR birds. After blinking a few times and ascertaining that they were neither a mirage nor lawn ornaments, I meekly asked the desk clerk about them and was told they were wild turkeys! I had no idea such things existed (having never given them much thought) or if they did that they'd show up in Upstate New York in the dead of winter.

As it turns out, I wasn't entirely wrong.. wild turkeys were almost extinct in the first half of the twentieth century, their numbers dropping to an estimated 30,000 in the entire United States. Wild turkeys are native exclusively to North America, and provided an abundant source of game for early settlers. They were so much a part of early American history that they were Ben Franklin's choice for National Bird, over the eventual honoree, the bald eagle. The story of their demise is a familiar one.. urban encroachment on food and nesting sites, pollution, and uncontrolled hunting. *

In the 1980's, concerted efforts to save the turkeys were begun, (by organizations such as the National Wildlife Turkey Federation) and they have been a resounding success. Millions of birds now roam the lower 48 states and even parts of Canada.
I found these state-specific links without hardly trying:

Wisconsin
New York
Connecticut
Michigan
Pennsylvania
and of course
Kansas, with perhaps the definitive wild turkey site, with everything from species information to recipes (gulp!)

No mention of wild turkeys should end without visual references: these were gleaned from the various links mentioned (mostly) and without permission (naturally):

Canadian turkey turkey

CNN turkeys popular wild turkey yet another turkey

* References:

Emagazine story
CNN Report

Linque Du Jour:   Journals @ About.com

Like all of the about.com sites, this is maintained by a real person, not a search engine bot. It's for all journalling, online or off, with dozens (hundreds?) of useful and entertaining links.

And best of all.. this journal was featured as Diary of the Day today! Wheee! Thanks to Catherine deCuir, journal guide, for a great write-up.

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