Turkey vs. Bald Eagle

turkey, eagle, Eyewire, citizen science, Thanksgiving

Turkeys vs Eagles starts at 11 AM EST on 11/23 and goes for 24 hours!

This week, a lot of folks here in the US will be visiting family for Thanksgiving. If you find yourself craving some Eyewire time amid the hustle and bustle, or you live somewhere that doesn’t do the whole “eat a big pile of food on the fourth Thursday in November” routine, we’ve still got a big bird battle happening here. The turkey isn’t just an emblem of this holiday; it’s also the bird that Benjamin Franklin believed should be the national bird of the United States! Obviously, the bald eagle won out, but knowing that a fair number of people find the turkey not only tastier but a better symbol, we must put the question to you, Eyewirers. Which would you choose?

Ben Franklin hilariously weighs in on Turkey vs Eagle:

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, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

More food for thought as you choose you team for this tasty competition:


  • Taxonomic name: Meleagris gallopavo, about as big a mouthful as the bird itself.
  • Their size gives them a reputation for flightlessness, but don’t be fooled: wild turkeys can absolutely get airborne!
  • Does eating turkey make you sleepy? That’s probably just a myth. Although turkey meat contains the α-amino acid tryptophan, sometimes a cause of drowsiness, most poultry has the same amount of tryptophan as turkey does. The Thanksgiving “food coma” is probably an insulin spike due to how many carbohydrates accompany the turkey centerpiece.

Bald Eagle

  • Taxonomic name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus, because you thought the other name was tough.
  • This huge raptor can live pretty much anywhere in North America, but it’s quiet shy about humans. Spotting a bald eagle on a road trip is a rather lucky occurrence!
  • They have always been revered on this continent: many indigenous cultures here treat the bald eagle as sacred. Into the present day, for instance, the Lakota still gift the bird’s feathers as a mark of honor; wearing a war bonnet with dozens and dozens of feathers should be quite the honor indeed.


The usual bonuses

Earn 5,000 points – 2,500 bonus
Earn 15,000 points – 5,000 bonus
Earn 25,000 points – 10,000 bonus
For every 25,000 points above 25,000 – 5,000 bonus
Member of winning team (if you’ve scored at least 2,500 points) – 10,000 bonus
Highest scorer on each team – 5,000 bonus
Player with #1 overall score – 10,000 bonus
Player with #2 overall score – 5,000 bonus
Player with #3 overall score – 2,500 bonus

For science!

Artwork by Daniela Gamba