Talking turkey with Ben Franklin
With Thanksgiving a week away and our thoughts turning to turkey, I thought it fitting to excerpt Benjamin Franklin’s famous letter to his daughter stating his dismay that the bald eagle had been chosen for our national bird and not the wild turkey. It shows considerable insight into bird behavior and references not only turkeys and eagles but also osprey and kingbirds. Enjoy, and happy (early) Thanksgiving!“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.“With all this Injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird, not bigger than a Sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the king birds from our Country...“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!”Scott Heth is the director of Audubon Sharon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (subject line: Nature Notes).