Turkeys are native to North America and live in the wild in every state except Alaska. They got the name “turkey” when Turkish merchants brought them into Europe. Since they were very abundant and easy to kill, indigenous North Americans domesticated them by around 800 BC. Many native American tribes considered turkeys to be a gift from deity. Ben Franklin thought that the turkey instead of the bald eagle should be the national bird of the United States. The blessing of turkeys is that they seem to be designed uniquely to meet the needs of humans.
Biologically, turkeys are of the order called Galliformes, which are ground-feeding birds that include chickens, grouse, guinea fowl, quail, and pheasants. Turkeys have large breasts, are poor fliers, and can adapt to almost any environment. They are omnivores that will eat just about anything they find on the ground.
From an evolutionary standpoint, it is hard to imagine how turkeys have survived. The only defensive weapon they have is the spurs on the feet of the males. Those of us living in areas where there are large numbers of wild turkeys have learned to be careful when around them. A turkey will attack anything it sees as subordinate. Recently in the spring mating season, a turkey flew through the open window of a pickup truck and attacked the driver, who required more than a dozen stitches. But a turkey is no match for a wolf, bear, or eagle.
When God blessed Noah and his family in Genesis chapter nine, He told them that all living things were delivered into their hands. He said that “every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” The ease of domesticating chickens and turkeys comes from the planning and wisdom of God. The blessing of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner is a special reminder of God’s creative wisdom. It also reminds us that we are responsible to care for the wonderful blessings of food God has provided.
— John N. Clayton © 2019
Data from Heifer.org and World Ark, Holiday 2019, pages 5-7.