U.S. President Barack Obama has granted a pardon to a turkey, saving the bird from becoming part of a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast.

At an annual White House ceremony Wednesday, Mr. Obama granted the 20 kilogram turkey - named "Courage" - a "full and unconditional" presidential pardon.

Courage and another turkey named "Carolina" will be flown the Disneyland amusement park in California where they will be the honorary grand marshals in Disneyland's annual Thanksgiving Day parade Thursday.

The president joked that the turkey had his daughters, Sasha and Malia, to thank for the pardon because he said, in his words, "I was planning to eat this sucker."

Mr. Obama used the occasion to also thank members of the U.S. armed forces, both at home and abroad, and to wish them a happy Thanksgiving.  

Mr. Obama said there were certain days in his job that reminded him of why he ran for president, and then there "are moments like this, where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland."

Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since the Lincoln administration in the 1860s.  It was President George H.W. Bush who issued the first turkey pardon 20 years ago.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the last Thursday of November to be observed as a day of thanksgiving.  The modern Thanksgiving holiday traces its roots to 1621, when English settlers in the Massachusetts Colony held a feast with a Native American tribe who taught the colonists how to grow food and hunt for game in their new surroundings.