Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cold Turkey

Since the mid-1960s, Wild Turkeys have been repeatedly released in southeastern Minnesota.  These birds have come from captive and wild stock, the latter mainly from Missouri.  The species is now fairly common in most of the southern half of Minnesota.  Indeed, the Department of Natural Resources now allows both spring and fall hunting seasons.  The general consensus is that Wild Turkeys, due to overhunting and habitat destruction, disappeared in the state in the 1880s (MN DNR). I was surprised to read in Roberts' The Birds of Minnesota that "there is no absolutely positive evidence that the Wild Turkey ever existed in Minnesota."  The early explorers of the region make no reference to turkeys, although possibly these large birds rarely wondered north or west from Iowa or Wisconsin. 

Europeans first called these birds turkeys when the birds were brought from the New World in the mid-1500s.  The word was used to describe any strange, foreign import. Although the term was vague, it referred to Asia Minor in general even though people knew turkeys originated from the Americas (Gruson's Words for Birds).

Turkey Vultures, on the other hand, were so named for their superficial similarity to turkeys.  As you can see from this Florida vulture below, the similarity is not such a stretch!

1 comment:

  1. They have now expanded quite a bit north. Pine Co in Minn and Douglas Co in Wis for sure. Each year when I visit these areas they seem to be a few more miles north than the previous year.