Kitsap Audubon Society

Kitsap Audubon Society's General Meeting - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - Wildlife Conservation in the Falklands, S. Georgia, and Antarctic.
Kitsap Audubon Society meets the 2nd Thursday of each month, September through May, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., on the lower level of the Poulsbo Public Library, 700 NE Lincoln Rd. Meetings are open to the public. There is free parking behind the Library. Enter from the rear.

On Thanksgiving, the turkey is the iconic bird of the day. But wild turkeys get a lot of attention any time of the year. They’re one of our biggest birds, and a strutting tom is an impressive sight with his fanned peacock tail, distinctive wattle and bright colors. My most memorable turkey encounter occurred in a place called Turkey Creek Canyon on the rim of the Gila Wilderness in Arizona. I was on a 1980 Sierra Club backpack. A hot, dry hike brought us to a saddle forested with Ponderosa pines. It offered cooling relief from the sun plus sweeping views of the surrounding desert. I gratefully shed my sweaty pack and seated myself on the soft forest duff with my back against a rock – and fell asleep. When I awoke I was surrounded by turkeys. Some were almost within reach. I sat still as stump while they continued grazing all around me. Turkeys are native to the Americas. Turkey fossils have been unearthed across the southern U.S. and Mexico dating back five million years. Their numbers dwindled through the early 20th century because of their popularity on the dinner table. But turkeys have been reintroduced in every state except Alaska. Turkeys were domesticated for food by native peoples before the Spanish Conquistadors arrived. They were reported in the Yucatan by Franciso de Cordoba’s men in 1517, and by Cortez in 1519. According to Sam Passamonte of Poulsbo, his ancestor, Miquiel de Passamonte, is credited by some historians with introducing the turkey into Spain as early as 1511, but it’s not clear it was the same bird. Europeans originally thought America was part of the West Indies, so the French word for turkey is “coq d’Inde.” In 16th Century England, many exotic foods were imported by eastern Mediterranean merchants. They were referred to as “turkey goods,” because trade routes crossed through Turkey, and the name came to represent an unfamiliar, far-off place. Any big, edible fowl that was not familiar to them became a “turkey bird.” In England, turkey became so popular it replaced chicken at many dinner tables. Shakespeare mentioned the turkey in 12th Night, written around 1601, so it was already familiar to his audiences. The English brought the name to the New World, and it became a fixture in the language. Ben Franklin once suggested naming the American turkey our national bird. He argued that the American eagle is a scavenger, and less deserving of recognition. But the eagle was a long-established symbol of power and appears in many crests. Many considered turkeys stupid, in spite of their uncanny ability to outwit hunters. But the bias gave rise to the use of “turkey” to refer to a person who lacks good sense or judgement. It’s doubtful that our celebrated “first Thanksgiving dinner, bore any resemblance to today’s holiday dinner fare; but the turkey has always had a special place in American history and holiday tradition.

Kitsap Audubon's Current President is Sandy Bullock. Check out her webpage - President's Page. If you would like to send her an e-mail - click here:
Sandy Bullock.

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The Kingfisher Newsletter

Kitsap Audubon publishes a monthly on-line newsletter called the Kingfisher. The Kingfisher is published eight times a year, September to May (note: extending to June in 2015). Click here to see Archive of past issues.

© Paul Carson

Submissions from readers are welcome. Email text or photographs to or mail them to Gene Bullock, Kingfisher Editor, 1968 NE Lind Ct., Poulsbo WA 98370. Our deadline is the 15th of the preceding month.