On Independence Day, the 4th of July, I was sitting in the kitchen of my parents’ house drinking some coffee and sharing some homemade pancakes with Desi while my mother talked to my aunt on the phone about plans to meet at the Saugerties 4th of July parade.  After hanging up my mother mentioned, offhand, that my aunt had a pile of young Wild Turkeys in her yard.  At that point I did what any birder would do in such a situation.  I called my aunt back, who confirmed the turkeys were still there, made sure Desi had eaten enough pancakes, and then I took the short drive to my Aunt Bonnie’s house to see some Wild Turkeys.

Why was I interested in Wild Turkeys on the 4th of July?  Because they could have become the national bird of the United States, and would have if Benjamin Franklin had his way, and I thought it would somehow be patriotic or something to pay homage to turkeys on this holiday instead of the turkey holocaust that is Thanksgiving.  That and turkeys are just plain cool, especially when you get to see a whole bunch of them at once.  Unfortunately for me these turkeys were a bit wary for birds that had bedded down in a front yard and I had to work to get any usable shots after they skedaddled into the well shaded woods.

But after my turkey encounter, and after stopping to say hello to my aunt and grandmother, I started to think that it is a darn good thing that the Wild Turkey is not the national bird of the United States.  This thought was only reinforced when later that morning I went to my hometown 4th of July Parade.  You see, Americans are very big on their national bird and they put its image everywhere, in not at all tacky displays of jingoism and patriotism.  And as bad as some of these images are when a Bald Eagle is used I can’t even imagine what they would look like with turkeys.  A couple of actually not too bad examples from the parade are below.  If you want to see how bad things can get just image search “Bald Eagle American flag” and enjoy the rewards.

Also, as Greg Laden pointed out in a recent comment thread here at 10,000 Birds, the fact that the Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States probably helped drive the banning of DDT to help protect them.  Not only that, but if the Wild Turkey were the national bird it stands to reason, as many have stated, that the Bald Eagle would be eaten on Thanksgiving.  And that would be just plain gross…

Be thankful that Benjamin Franklin did not get his way or you would be picking eagle out of your teeth each year, that is, if you managed to survive the onslaught of patriotic turkey pictures every time someone wanted to rally ’round the flag.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.