Monday, June 20, 2011

A turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris





A turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris. One species, Meleagris gallopavo, commonly known as the Wild Turkey, is native to the forests of North America. The domestic turkey is a descendant of this species. The other living species is Meleagris ocellata or the Ocellated Turkey, native to the forests of the Yucat√°n Peninsula. There are several extinct species dating from as far back as 23 million years ago.

Turkeys are classed in the taxonomic order of Galliformes. Within this order they are relatives of the grouse family or subfamily. Males of both species have a distinctive fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the top of the beak — called a snood in the Wild Turkey and its domestic descendants. They are among the largest birds in their ranges. As in many galliform species, the male (tom or gobbler) is larger and much more colorful than the female (hen).

Those who don’t know a snood from a wattle (the flap of skin under the turkey’s chin) are sure to be intrigued by the following little-known turkey facts:
Turkeys recognize each other by their unique voices.
Researchers have identified more than 20 distinct vocalizations in wild turkeys.
Turkeys have excellent geography skills and can learn the specific details of an area of more than 1,000 acres.
Like cats and dogs, turkeys are intelligent and sensitive animals who form strong social bonds and show great affection to others.
On factory farms, turkeys frequently have the ends of their beaks and toes cut off without anesthesia — practices know as debeaking and detoeing — to prevent them from injuring one another as they are crowded by the thousands into dark, filthy warehouses.
The weight of the average turkey raised commercially in the U.S. increased by 57 percent between the year 1965 and the year 2000. Farmed turkeys were bred to grow up to an average of 28.2 pounds, causing commercially-bred turkeys to suffer from crippling foot and leg problems.
Completely unlike their wild ancestors not only in terms of physique but also in hue, most commercial turkeys are totally white — the natural bronze color selectively bred out of them to eliminate uneven pigment colorations — because of consumer preference for even flesh tones.
Also catering to consumer preferences for “white meat,” the industry has selectively bred turkeys to have abnormally large breasts. This anatomical manipulation makes it difficult for male turkeys to mount the females, eliminating these birds’ ability to reproduce naturally. As a result, artificial insemination is now the sole means of reproduction on factory farms, where breeder birds are confined for months on end.
Turkeys, along with other poultry, are not protected by the federal Humane Slaughter Act, and are frequently killed without first being stunned.
Every year, more than 46 million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving holiday dinners, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you think these birds are as incredible as we do, you can join talk show host and animal advocate Ellen DeGeneres, Farm Sanctuary’s 2010 Adopt-A-Turkey Project spokesperson, in starting a new tradition this year by adopting a turkey instead of eating. Visit adoptaturkey.org for details or call the Turkey Adoption Hotline at 1-888-SPONSOR.

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