Benjamin Franklin believed that turkeys were respectable and courageous birds. ©Bob Leggett

In theatrical circles, a “turkey” is a failure or a flop, but nothing could be further from the truth in the natural world. In fact, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are North America’s largest game birds and were considered by one of our nation’s forefathers, Benjamin Franklin, to be superior to the country’s national emblem, the bald eagle.

It seems Franklin was on to something: wild turkeys are fearless. They will confront and chase anyone—or anything—they consider to be a potential threat. Although the daringness has been largely bred out of domesticated turkeys, anyone who has encountered a wild turkey quickly learns that it is not to be trifled with—especially if you’re in a mail truck.

Recently, a TV news producer in Texas found out about wild turkeys firsthand. After hearing neighbors’ stories of the birds chasing down joggers and people with strollers in an Arden area neighborhood, Duffy Kelly went out with her camera to get the story on film. Watch the hilarious video below, in which Kelly finds out just how tenacious wild turkeys can be.


Turkeys follow a strict pecking order and are known to attack birds and even people they deem subordinate, especially during the spring mating season. People who have suffered turkey attacks recommend not looking the birds in the eye.

On June 20, 1782, a year and a half after the Great Seal was adopted by Congress with the bald eagle as its centerpiece—a process that took Congress six years—Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter with his thoughts about this new, bird-emblem of America:

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America … . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

I think I know of at least one reporter and a mail carrier who would agree.

Have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving,