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Wild Turkey - A Bird of Courage

If it was for Benjamin Franklin to decide, Wild Turkey would be the national symbol of the United States, and not the Bald Eagle as it is. It is known, from the letters he sent to his daughter, that Franklin declared Bold Eagle as a ‘Bird of Bad Moral Character’, while he considered a Wild Turkey to be the ‘Bird of Courage’. Since turkey is a bird closely associated to Thanksgiving Day, its symbolic meaning often doesn’t go beyond its common sense. 

audubon wild turkey limited edition

But, this magnificent bird is really gorgeous having in mind its wild form. Turkeys have always been objects for laughing since they usually run or walk kindly unsecure; but wild turkeys can also fly, settling on very tall trees over the nights. One of their characteristics is that they travel and seek for food in very large groups. A very interesting example is excellently described at National Audubon’s Society: “When the Turkeys arrive in parts where the mast is abundant, they separate into smaller flocks, composed of birds of all ages and both sexes, promiscuously mingled, and devour all before them. This happens in the middle of November. So gentle do they sometimes become after these long journeys, that they have been seen to approach the farm-houses, associate with domestic fowls, and enter the stables and corn-cribs in quest of food.”

If we try to visualize the setting when wild turkeys mingle in the center of someone’s farm or a property, it seems as a very nice but funny scene. However, this movement just proves the wild turkeys’ determination to survive and stick together. Like any other group – compared to humans’ social groups – there are good and bad habits among the group members. Wild turkeys always travel in groups. Their male members usually travel together with the young. When the young are grown and independent enough, they kill the old male turkeys. In that way, the food they find on their way stays only for them. Call it courageous or not, these birds took the survival issue very seriously.

What’s even more important, wild turkey attracted a famous ornithological illustrator, John James Audubon. In his collection “Birds of America”, he made an extraordinary illustration of a wild turkey. With so many details on the illustration, this bird finally tells us why Franklin called it a ‘Bird of Courage’. Apparently, Audubon was so passionate for all the birds within this collection. However, the wild turkey seems to stand out of the crowd. It’s really beautiful in its full size (99,0 x 66,0 cm), wandering somewhere in Northern America fields. The print remained in the original colors, so the full-size giclée print is also authentic as the original one. 

Heritage Prints in Teylers Museum

Heritage Prints has exclusive access to the entire Audubon’s collection “Birds of America”, so the prints we make are literally the same as the originals. Since Victor Gifford Audubon sold the entire collection to the Teylers Museum in the Netherlands in August 1833, we made it easy to get, study and carefully examine each illustration individually. Considering the courageous nature of the wild turkey, we may also say that we were very astonished by its beauty and importance it has to this collection. In our opinion, bird art illustrations are not only for the people that really love and appreciate birds, symbolic nature of birds and their specific life in a certain habitat, but also for all people who feel courageous, appreciate this virtue and believe in a proud survival through these modern times. 

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