When Europeans first encountered wild turkey in the Americas they incorrectly identified them as a type of guineafowl, also known as Turkey fowl from their importation to Central Europe through Turkey, and that name, shortened to just the name of the country, stuck as the name of the creature. The domesticated turkey is attributed to Aztec agriculture, which addressed one subspecies local to the present day states of Jalisco and Guerrero.
The use of the turkey in the USA for Thanksgiving precedes Lincoln’s nationalization of the holiday in 1863. Alexander Hamilton proclaimed that “no citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day,” but turkey was uncommon as Thanksgiving fare until after 1800. By 1857 turkey had become part of the traditional dinner in New England.
Because turkey is the most common main dish of a Thanksgiving dinner, Thanksgiving is sometimes colloquially called “turkey day″. In 2006, American turkey growers were expected to raise 270 million turkeys, to be processed into five billion pounds of turkey meat valued at almost $8 billion, with one third of all turkey consumption occurring in the Thanksgiving-Christmas season, and a per capita consumption of almost 18 pounds.
The range and numbers of the wild turkey had decreased at the beginning of the 20th century due to hunting and loss of habitat. Game managers estimate that the entire populations of wild turkeys in the United States was as low as 30,000 in the early 1900s. Game officials made efforts to protect and encourage the breeding of the surviving wild population. In 1973 the total U.S. population was estimated to be 1.3 million, and current estimates place the entire wild turkey population at 7 million individuals.
The name given to a group of turkeys is a rafter, although they are sometimes incorrectly referred to as a gobble or flock.