In 1782, the turkey lost by a single vote to the bald eagle to become the national bird or national symbol. The home range of the wild turkey is the eastern, southern and southwestern United States, and down into Mexico. There is no evidence that this species existed in what is now Minnesota before European settlement, but it was introduced into the southern part of the state as far back as 1936. Now, after a series of introductions during the 1960s and '70s, turkeys are seen year-round in open woodlands, along forest edges and in wooded swamps scattered across the southern part of the state.
The domestic turkey is a subspecies that was tamed and taken from Mexico to Europe by the Spaniards in the 16th century. There was confusion from the start regarding the origin of this great bird. It was initially thought that it had originated in Turkey. Hence, the name. History tells us that English settlers brought the domestic turkey back to North America.
Wild turkeys prefer acorns but will eat any kind of seed, plus fruits, insects and frogs. Although they feed on the ground, they roost in trees at night. Seeing these large birds, which stand 3 or 4 feet tall and usually weigh from 8 to 18 pounds, spring off the ground and fly nearly straight up into a tall tree is quite a sight.