Happy 4th of July to everyone here in the United States! And it wouldn't be the 4th of July without a nod to our National symbol, the Bald Eagle. But how did the Bald Eagle come to be the symbol of the United States - and did Ben Franklin REALLY want the Turkey instead of the Eagle to represent our country?
Shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were given the job of designing an official seal for the new nation. Despite numerous attempts, they failed to come up with a design and it wasn't until 1782 that Secretary of Congress Charles Thomsan combined what he thought were the best elements of all the designs submitted thus far - and made the Bald Eagle more prominent on the seal. On June 20, 1782 the Great Seal of the United States was adopted. The Bald Eagle was officially adopted as the emblem of the United States five years later in 1787. (Thank you to History.com)
And, contrary to legend, there is no evidence Ben Franklin protested to Congress about the choice of the Eagle and lobbied for the Turkey - although he did label the Bald Eagle "a bird of bad moral character" and a "rank coward" who stole its prey from other birds in a letter to his daughter in 1784.
But I disagree. Bald Eagles are just downright cool. They are the only eagles unique to North America - making them "our" Eagle, and their comeback is one of the best wildlife success stories we’ve got. As recently as the 1960's they were almost extinct with fewer than 1,000 Bald Eagles in the entire country! Now, after banning DDT and protecting the birds in other ways, we’re up to nearly 10,000 nesting pairs in the lower 48. (Thank you to Audubon.org for the figures)
Bald Eagles are viewed as strong and independent, majestic, bold and faithful. They are also a symbol of strength and determination. I'd say that's a pretty fantastic bird to represent our country.
So - Happy Birthday, America...and a happy belated birthday to our National Symbol, the Bald Eagle!
Bald Eagle at sunset Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge