119 years of Trust Nature THE TRIBUNE
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Sunday, June 27, 1999
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Stupid and lazy birds
By Nutan Shukla

DOMESTIC turkeys are not only the meatiest domesticated birds, but they are the most stupid and lazy birds as well. They easily get panicked. In one instance about a thousand birds were killed by trampling on a ranch in California when a low-flying jet flew over. Instances of their stupidity are many. There are many cases when these birds kept on standing out in the open during the heavy downpour and got drowned, while their hutches were few metres away. Once six birds scrambled into a farmer’s empty barrel, though, there was not enough room for them. All died due to suffocation. None had the sense to get out.

It is believed that the turkey was first domesticated in Mexico.Another example of their foolhardiness is that they occasionally stop feeding. In such cases they are persuaded to eat.

Wild turkey is the ancestor of all domestic turkeys. It is still found in wooded country in North and Central America but is not stupid like the domesticated stock. It has characteristic, bare red head wattles. It stands about 1.5 m tall, having maximum weight of about 10 kg. They are fast runners, reaching a maximum speed of 48 km per hour in occasional short bursts. Like running it also flies in short bursts, but usually travels on foot at a speed of about 25 km per hour. There was a time when the bird had a large population throughout its range, but due to its appeal as a table and game bird, hunters reduced its number.

It is believed that the turkey was first domesticated in Mexico, possibly when Europe was passing through the period of Stone Age. In Britain the bird was introduced very recently. It is believed that it was between 1525 and 1532 that turkey was imported to the country by William Strickland of Boynton-on-the-Wold, Yorkshire. He was given the permission to incorporate a turkey cock in his family crest.

Turkey rearing is a lucrative industry in many European and American countries. The heaviest and the most expensive turkey was reared by a British firm. It was a stag (male) weighing 36.75 kg while wild turkeys can hardly reach a weight of 10 kg. This bird was sold for world record of 3,600 in December 1986, in an auction in London.

In the wild, males are at their heaviest at the start of the breeding season for they then develop a store of fat and oil on which it draws during its extremely energetic courtship activities, but in the case of domestic turkeys heavy stags are produced by breeders who specialise in producing breeding stock for poultry farms. For the purpose males are selected after the breeding season is over and only those males are taken who are a year old. According to an estimate, if they are fed properly then during their 16-month life each stag consumes about 287 kg of feed. During this period these birds multiply their birth weight by about 360 times in six months and about 725 times by the time they are killed. The grave risk with such birds, who are thus fattened, is that they often die due to heart failure.Back


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