Monday, December 3, 2012

Turkey season

The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is essentially a very heavy New World chicken. Benjamin Franklin rather sweetly favoured the turkey as a national symbol, and a much more fitting representative of America than the cowardly bald eagle. Having been chased by turkey toms, I agree with the great man that these birds are not wanting in spirit.

Pre-Nancy, post-Nancy
These bizarre head ornaments on the tom turkey are the result of sexual selection, though why turkey hens find that fleshy growth over the beak (a snood), dangling in all its multicoloured splendor, is beyond me. The skin on a tom's head changes colour, depending on his mood, and accounting for its Japanese name,  shichimenchō (シチメンチョウ / 七面鳥), which means seven-faced bird.

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