Bald Eagles are birds of prey that are native to North America. For six years, the members of Congress held a dispute over the U.S. national emblem. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “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; like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. The turkey is a much more respectable bird and withal a true, original native of America.” Apparently, he did not mince words.
Fortunately, Franklin lost that argument. Since 1782, thanks to Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress, the bald eagle was chosen over a white eagle in the original design. Ultimately, this “lousy” white-headed bird with a massive wingspan was given the honor of representing the nation. The American eagle makes official appearances on many government institutions and official documents, including the president’s flag, the mace of the House of Representatives, military insignia, and billions of one-dollar bills per va.gov. President John F. Kennedy was clearly on team eagle. He wrote the following to the Audubon Society, “The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the nation’s emblem. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolize the strength and freedom of America. But as latter-day citizens, we shall fail our trust if we permit the eagle to disappear.”
This predatory bird has faced the threat of extinction. In the late 1800s, the USA was home to 100,000 nesting bald eagles. However, their populations became threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. Of course, Congress did pass the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940 to prevent people from possessing, killing, or selling the birds. Following WWII, the chemical pesticide DDT came into use, and by the 1960s, there were barely 400 breeding pairs left in the continental U.S. Gratefully, due to conservation efforts, America’s bald eagle population is making a comeback, with more than 71,400 nesting pairs, as reported in 2021 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, a very encouraging statistic for this bold and beautiful “lousy” bird.
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