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8 Biggest Turkey Myths and Misconceptions

male gould's turkey

Turkeys are synonymous with Thanksgiving, and when that time of year rolls around, there is no shortage of myths and misconceptions about the holiday’s favorite bird.

We’re here to break that cycle, though, and provide you with fascinating facts to throw out while sitting around the Thanksgiving table! We set out to discover the real truth behind some of the most popular myths and misconceptions about turkeys. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. Turkey makes you sleepy

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Image Credit: Sean R. Stubben, Shutterstock

One of the most common urban legends is that the naturally occurring amino acid L-tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy. The truth is that all meats contain L-tryptophan, as well as cheese, fish, and eggs. Tryptophan is used by the body for various functions but primarily in creating serotonin, which creates a feeling of relaxation. Since so many other foods contain this amino acid, you’d also be sleepy after eating them, not just after turkey, ruling out the myth that eating turkey makes you sleepy. Most likely, it’s the overindulgence that makes us sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner!


2. Turkeys can’t fly

While it’s true that domesticated turkeys can’t fly well and most don’t fly that often, wild turkeys most certainly can fly. Turkeys spend most of their time on the ground, foraging for food, but wild turkeys in particular are capable of flying up to a mile in distance and at 35mph! This is mostly to escape predators or to roost in trees, though. Domesticated turkeys are typically heavier, making the distance that they can fly much smaller.


3. Only male turkeys gobble

two turkeys
Image Credit: Pixabay

Turkeys are known for the unique gobbling sound that they make, but this gobble has predominantly been thought to be limited to males, called toms. However, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, female turkeys also gobble, albeit far less than males.


4. All turkeys have colorful plumage

Almost all of us have the image of a gorgeous plumage of colorful feathers when we think of a turkey, but the truth is that domesticated turkeys raised for consumption today do not. Broad Breasted Whites are the most common breed of domesticated turkey, and as the name suggests, they are completely white, unlike their more colorful wild cousins.


5. Turkey skin is unhealthy

wild turkey walking in the wild
Image Credit: Piqsels

Many people consider turkey skin to be unhealthy due to the presence of “bad” fats and cholesterol. However, turkey skin contains more “good” mono and polyunsaturated fats than these bad fats, and while too much skin is not a great idea, it is a myth that turkey skin is bad for you.


6. Turkeys were supposed to be on the national seal of the United States

Another common myth around turkeys is that Benjamin Franklin pushed for the turkey to be on the national seal of the U.S. In truth, Franklin proposed having a seal with Moses at the Red Sea. In a letter to his daughter, he was disappointed with the bald eagle because he saw it as a bird of “bad moral character. ” This myth grew from the fact that Franklin did sit on the committee to work on the national seal’s design and stated that the eagle design looked like a turkey, but there is no evidence that he pushed for using an actual turkey on the design.


7. Turkeys are from Turkey

Ocellated Turkey
Image Credit: Ondrej Prosicky, Shutterstock

With their name, you’d be forgiven for thinking that turkeys are indigenous to the country of Turkey, but these birds actually originated in the Americas. In the 1500s, domesticated turkeys were taken to Europe and quickly spread throughout the region. Turkeys were then brought back to North America by settlers who didn’t realize that the bird originated there!


8. Turkeys are so stupid that they can drown in the rain

Turkeys are known for looking skyward for no apparent reason, leading to the myth that some turkeys are so stupid, they will keep looking up in a storm and drown in the rain. In truth, some turkeys have a unique genetic condition called tetanic torticollar spasms, which result in some strange behaviors, like staring at the sky. Still, no turkeys with this condition have been reported dying from looking up in the rain!

divider-multiprintFinal Thoughts

These are the most common urban myths and misconceptions around turkeys that you can now debunk in order to impress your Thanksgiving guests at the dinner table. Do you know of any myths we may have left out?


Featured Image Credit: Sean R. Stubben, Shutterstock

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