Bald Eagle "hardly worthy of the distinction" of national symbol

classic Classic list List threaded Threaded
1 message Options
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view

Bald Eagle "hardly worthy of the distinction" of national symbol

As a kid, I read many books about birds, and the tendency of earlier naturalists was to group birds into "good" and "bad" categories. Birds of prey were generally considered "bad," because they competed with humans by killing chickens and other livestock as well as game animals. Blackbirds destroyed grain, and were likewise so classified. The "good" birds helped control insects that ate crops or annoyed humans humans.  

Among my treasured bird books are many from a series by Arthur Cleveland Bent, "Life Histories of North American Birds." Bent had remarkable powers of observation and his descriptions, though rather quaint by modern standards.were vivid and very enjoyable. Here is an excerpt from a web browser-based electronic book collection Bent's Life Histories, selected from the hundreds of species biographies assembled and written by Bent and his collaborators and published in a twenty-one volume series between 1919 and 1968 by the United States Government Printing Office.

Here is an excerpt from Bent's Bald Eagle description. The entire entry, and links to many other of his species accounts may be accessed at:

"On June 20, 1782, our forefathers adopted as our national emblem the bald eagle, or the 'American eagle' as it was called, a fine looking bird, but one hardly worthy of the distinction. Its carrion-feeding habits, its timid and cowardly behavior, and its predatory attacks on the smaller and weaker osprey hardly inspire respect and certainly do not exemplify the best in American character. The golden eagle is a far nobler bird, but it is not strictly American. The wild turkey was suggested, but such a vain and pompous fowl would have been a worse choice. Eagles have always been looked upon as emblems of power and valor, so our national bird may still be admired by those who are not familiar with its habits. Its soaring flight, with its pure white head and tail glistening in the sunlight, is really inspiring; and it adds grandeur to the scene as it sits in a dignified pose on some dead tree, its white head clearly visible against the dark green of the forest background."