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Turkey

wild, domesticated, birds, american, bird and key

TURKEY, an American game-bird of the pheasant family and genus Meleagris, widely known both wild and domesticated. The com mon northern wild turkey (M. gallapavo) formerly inhabited almost all parts of the United States and southern Canada and south ward through the greater part of Mexico; it is now numerous, however, only in thickly wooded mountainous and inaccessible regions. It is a very beautiful bird of trim form and stately mien and the cock is colored with golden bronze hues, marked and varied by the blue and black lustre of the plumage. A peculiar tuft of hair like feathers is suspended from the breast, and the head and neck are furnished with wattles and erectile structures, which under excitement exhibit varying tints and hues. The wild tur key is a bird of the forests, where it lives in small flocks which enter clearings only to feed. They 'are eminently terrestrial, being swift of foot, and they scratch on the ground for the nuts, seeds, insects, etc., upon which they feed or pick berries and small fruits from the bushes. When pursued they prefer to run and seek concealment in the underbrush but if forced to fly are strong of wing. At night they roost in the tops of trees and are always keen sensed and alert. Like most of the pheasants turkeys are more or less polygamous and in the spring the cocks fight viciously for the posses sion of mates, before whom they show off in the pompous and ludicrous manner so well known in the bird. A simple nest on the ground, often by the side of a log, is made and lined with dry leaves; in it from one to three females deposit from 10 to 25 eggs, which are dirty white with reddish spots. Only one brood is raised in a season unless accident overtakes the first.

Although formerly so abundant and so tame that the early settlers found the neighboring forests almost as convenient as poultry yards, few persons have now the opportunity of shoot ing a wild turkey, but any such are events in the life of a sportsman, for success requires both skill and knowledge. The method most in

vogue is for the concealed hunter to attract the birds to him by imitating their call upon a tur key whistle and to shoot the wary birds as they appear. This method is most effective when the hen's call is employed to attract the cocks. They are also hunted with dogs or even stalked.

The domesticated turkey is derived from the Mexican variety, examples of which were carried to Europe in the early part of the 16th century; but it is possible that the strain may have been mixed in England with northern birds. The latter were partially domesticated by the Indians and New England settlers. The domesticated turkey has lost the grace, agility and brilliancy of color of its progenitor, but in other respects has been but little modified. In habits it is indeed still a half wild creature. In the four centuries of its domestication it has remained remarkably stable and except in color no distinct varieties have been produced. Of its habits, appearance and merits nothing need be said. The young of the domesticated tur key require especial care for the first five or six weeks of their existence.

The beautiful Central American oeellated turkey (M. ocellata) is of rather less size than the common turkey, hut more brilliantly colored. This species lacks the tuft of hairy feathers seen on the breast of the other and derives its specific name from the presence of brilliant eye like spots on the tail-coverts.

Consult Baird. Brewer and Ridgway, 'North American Land Birds,' Vol. III (Cambridge 1872) ; Darwin, 'Animals and Plants under Domestication,' Vol. I (New York 1868): Mc Grew, T. F., Standard Varieties and Management' (United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C., 1915) ; Mc Ilhenny, E. A., 'The Wild Turkey and its Hunt ing' (Garden City 1914); id., 'Turkeys, Water fowl and Guineas' (Mountain Grove, Mo., 1914) ; Sandys, 'Upland Game Birds' (New York 1902).