Despite its name, the turkey is a forest bird which is native to North America, and which has long held a treasured place in American culture. Far beyond being a mere food source, the turkey has become the symbol of Thanksgiving and the bounty of the Americas. According to legend, no less a figure than U.S. Founding Father Ben Franklin supported the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) as the national bird.

The American Poultry Association currently recognizes several domesticated varieties descended from the Wild Turkey. Some people would like some of these varieties recognized as true breeds that produce consistent traits in their young. However you prefer to classify these turkeys, they're splendid birds known for the striking appearance of the handsome males.

There is a second species of turkey, the truly beautiful Ocellated Turkey (M. ocellata) of the Yucatan Peninsula. Unfortunately, it must be as tasty as the Wild Turkey, because it has been threatened by illegal food hunting and probably survives mostly in protected reserves.