The turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris, which is native to the Americas. One species, Meleagris gallopavo (commonly known as the domestic turkey or wild turkey), is native to the forests of North America, mainly Mexico and the United States. The other living species is Meleagris ocellata or the ocellated turkey, native to the forests of the Yucatán Peninsula. Males of both turkey species have a distinctive fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the top of the beak (called a snood). They are among the largest birds in their ranges. As in many galliformes, the male is larger and much more colorful than the female.
Turkeys are classed in the family of Phasianidae (pheasants, partridges, francolins, junglefowl, grouse and relatives) in the taxonomic order of Galliformes. The genus Meleagris is the only genus in the subfamily Meleagridinae, formerly known as the family Meleagrididae, but now subsumed within the family Phasianidae.
History and naming
When Europeans first encountered turkeys in America, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl – i.e., as members of a group of birds which were thought to typically come from the country of Turkey. The name of the North American bird thus became "turkey fowl", which was then shortened to just "turkey". In 1550, the English navigator William Strickland, who had introduced the turkey into England, was granted a coat of arms including a "turkey-cock in his pride proper".