Friday, November 28, 2008

Naming The Bird "Turkey"

For those of you who don't know, the bird turkey has a connection with the country Turkey---although there are no turkeys in Turkey. Here is a snippet of the Wikipedia article on the bird turkey:
History and Naming
When Europeans first encountered turkeys in the Americas they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl (Numididae), also known as a turkey-cock from its importation to Central Europe through Turkey, and the name of that country stuck as the name of the bird. The confusion is also reflected in the scientific name: meleagris is Greek for guinea-fowl.

The names for M. gallopavo in other languages also frequently reflect its exotic origins, seen from an Old World viewpoint, and add to the confusion about where turkeys actually came from. The many references to India seen in common names go back to a combination of two factors: first, the genuine belief that the newly-discovered Americas were in fact a part of Asia, and second, the tendency during that time to attribute exotic animals and foods to a place that symbolized far-off, exotic lands. The latter is reflected in terms like "Muscovy Duck" (which is from South America, not Muscovy). This was a major reason why the name "turkey-cock" stuck to Meleagris rather than to the guinea fowl (Numida meleagris): the Ottoman Empire represented the exotic East.

The name given to a group of turkeys is a rafter, although they are sometimes incorrectly referred to as a gobble or flock.[1]

Several other birds which are sometimes called "turkeys" are not particularly closely related: the Australian brush-turkey is a megapode, and the bird sometimes known as the "Australian turkey" is in fact the Australian Bustard, a gruiform. The bird sometimes called a Water Turkey is actually an Anhinga (Anhinga rufa)

See also: Is turkey (the bird) named after Turkey (the country) or vice versa?, Why A Turkey Is Called A Turkey and Why Is Our Thanksgiving Bird Called a Turkey? (Answer: Because, of course, it came from Turkey).

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