Fri 15 Feb 2008
What is there to say about the American turkey that hasn’t recently been said? In the last 20 years, wild turkeys have spread throughout West Marin. I grew up in Berkeley and six weeks ago attended a New Year’s Eve party there; to my surprise, residents of my old neighborhood were likewise talking about wild turkeys moving in on them.
Well, how ‘bout this curiosity? Why does the bird have the same name as the country? As it happens, Turkey was the talk of the world’s chattering classes this past week after Turks voted that henceforth women can wear headscarves in universities. But getting back to the coincidence of names….
Here’s an explanation from an educational website, Kidzone, for younger students; it’s consistent with the etymology given by The American Heritage Dictionary:
“When the Spanish first found the bird in the Americas more than 400 years ago they brought it back to Europe. The English mistakenly thought it was a bird they called a “turkey” so they gave it the same name. This other bird was actually from Africa, but came to England by way of Turkey (lots of shipping went through Turkey at the time). The name stuck even when they realized the birds weren’t the same.”
The African bird which the English confused with the American turkey was the guinea fowl, The American Heritage Dictionary notes. As it happens, for the past two months that bird has been the talk of Point Reyes Station’s chattering classes, such as we are, because a representative of the alien species has been walking the streets of town.
The first report of that streetwalking was published in this blog Dec. 16. Yesterday, The Point Reyes Light reported that after two months of hunting and pecking throughout Point Reyes Station, the bird has now been caught by Station House Café employee Armando Gonzalez.
A word of warning. If guinea fowl is the dinner special some night at the café, remember the caution of Inverness Park biologist Russell Ridge: “You better like dark meat.”