Our national bird is, of course, the bald eagle. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams failed at the task of designing the official seal of the United States. Franklin favored the turkey as part of the seal and argued that the bald eagle was a bird of bad moral character. After the fruitless efforts of two other groups of distinguished elders, the bald eagle was finally given its honorable place. The turkey, in turn, was adopted by Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
The choice of an eagle as a symbol of wisdom, courage, and longevity has ancient lineage, having been carried as a standard by officers of the Roman Legion. Earlier choices of the wolf, ox, horse and boar were abandoned by the Romans in favor of the eagle. But Rome did not invent the idea: Cyrus The Great of Persia (540 BC) used the eagle as his standard. Other nations that followed Cyrus’s example include Austria, Germany, Poland, Romania, Mexico, Ghana, and Nigeria. Several prideful institutions have done the same: Barklays Bank, American Airlines, the Philadelphia Eagles, and my grandfather’s cloth business, which early in the 1920s he proudly named The Eagle Converting Company. (I don’t think my grandfather realized that under some circumstances conversion is a crime.)
The Bald Eagle is one of the few species that inhabit the entire United States (excepting Hawaii), and, remarkably, it is not found outside of North America. However, there are at least twenty-four other species of eagle, with some in every continent except South America.
Limited time and space precludes extended discussion of the natural science of the bald eagle. I will limit observation to my favorite bald eagle fact: the bald eagle builds the largest structure of any animal other than homo sapiens. The largest nest found to date measured 10 feet from side to side and 20 feet from top to bottom.
Above is a nest I photographed a couple of weeks ago on the shores of Lake Champlain, as well as a few other images of this majestic bird.
Happy Fourth, everyone. Let freedom ring.
Yours From the Field,