Turkey: A Bird or a Nation?

Turkey Bird
Turkey Bird
Turkey ( The Bird!)

The turkey bird actually got its name from the country, even though the bird is actually a native bird of the Americas.

So why do they share the same name? Well, let’s get the facts on the two Turkeys first…

The land occupied by the Turks was known as the Ottoman Empire from the 1300s until 1922, when the Republic of Turkey was founded.

As for the turkey with wings, Meleagris Gallopavo is a strange-looking bird that’s known for its bald head, wattle, and shimmery feathers.

So how did the land of the Turks become linked with a North American bird?

Guinea Fowl
Guinea Fowl

Let me introduce you to another bird, the guinea fowl! This bird bears some similarity to the American bird and is native to Eastern Africa.  The guinea fowl used to be imported to Europe through the Ottoman Empire and became known as the “turkey-cock” or “turkey-hen”.

So when settlers in the Americas started sending the similar-looking North American bird to Europe, they were also referred to as turkeys.

The turkey’s acceptance happened quickly. By 1575, the English were enjoying turkey as part of their Christmas dinner, and Shakespeare referred to it in Henry IV. Turkeys have fared better than their guinea fowl relatives! So the next time you are tucking into your Christmas dinner, it can serve as another reminder of the wonderful history that Turkey has.


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