Woodland Turkey

There is a group of ornithologists who for some reason or another are charged with the job of naming birds.  Not that there’s much in the way of brand new bird life uncovered anymore, but there is a great deal of work being done to redefine, split or lump species and sub-species.  This Board of Bird Names seems to call the shots as long as no-one objects.

Their decisions seem rather picayune and arcane at times, and it’s sometimes a little irritating for amateurs to find that a familiar bird has been renamed.  Take the Baltimore Oriole for example: for decades, if not centuries, it was Baltimore Oriole then it got few years recasting as Northern Oriole only to be quite recently restored as Baltimore Oriole.  Supposedly there’s a sound taxonomic lumping and splitting reason, doubtless arising from DNA analysis.

I think though that this board could and should give pause and rename the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).  Give it a name that respects its place on earth: Northern Turkey, Woodland Turkey, American Turkey; anything would be better than Wild Turkey. Of course they’re wild!  Turkeys were wild, and alive, strutting the woodland edges long before they were fattened, plucked and flash frozen as joyless Thanksgiving Turkeys.

There are two Meleagris turkey species, our anonymous Wild Turkey and Meleagris ocellata,  the Ocellated Turkey, which is native to the forests of the Yucatán Peninsula.  Ocellated’ means having eye-like markings, a reference to the handsome array of spots at the margin of its fanned tail, the Yucatan bird at least has a distinctive adjectival component to its name,

I’m not sure, but I don’t think Australians call their little, green, seed-eating parrots Wild Budgerigars, nor do we talk of south-east Asia’s Jungle Fowl as Wild Chickens. Let’s accord Meleagris gallopavo  some dignity.

2 thoughts on “Woodland Turkey

  1. I don’t like “American Turkey” because many people equate “American” with “USAian.” At the very least, it seems, dropping “Wild” seems like a good idea. Or, call all wild birds “Wild” from now on. The Wild Robin, the Wild Crow, the Wild Goldfinch and of course the Wild Budgerigars. That last one should also be the name of a Bluegrass band.

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