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Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Feather.  This indicates the presence of Wild Turkey in the Union Furnace Nature Preserve.  Turkeys diverged from pheasants 11 million years ago “and were likely distributed continuously from middle latitudes of North America to northern South America during the Pleistocene” (Robert Ramsdale).  The Wild Turkey almost became our national bird in 1776, when the First Continental Congress selected a committee to design the Great Seal of America.  Benjamin Franklin believed the turkey to be a symbol of the United States of America, saying “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” (Robert Ramsdale).  At one point, Wild Turkeys were in danger of becoming extinct due to habitat loss and hunting; however, turkey restoration programs have helped to increase the turkey population. CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

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Photographs by Valerie Lykes