What Is The US National Bird and Why is the Bald Eagle?
|What Is The US National Bird? Photo First Cry Parenting|
With 50 states, the United States has an extremely diverse range of habitats that attracts and maintains a thriving bird population across the country.
Each state has its own bird, but what is the national bird of the USA?
What is the US National Bird?
The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was adopted as the national bird of the United States of America in 1782. The founding fathers of the United States were enamoured with the Roman Republic’s unique form of government which, they believed, had preserved liberty for thousands of years.
Eagle, usually the golden eagle, imagery was strong in Rome representing the military and political power of the Empire as well as the divine power of Christ, so it’s no surprise that an eagle was chosen to symbolise the new Republic.
What was the national bird before the bald eagle?
The first 13 states all had their own heraldry before the Bald eagle became the icon of the Great Seal. However, there was no national bird prior to the Bald eagle. In fact, there wasn't even a nation until 6 years before the Great Seal was finalized in 1782, when the colonies became the United States.
What does the bald eagle symbolize?
|Photo First Cry Parenting|
The bald eagle symbolizes strength and freedom, not just of the United States as a nation, but of the American people.
Eagles in general feature as a national symbol of many countries. They are often chosen because they represent strength, courage, freedom, and immortality – to name just a few.
The bald eagle is especially significant because it is found only in North America. This makes it the perfect animal to represent the United States!
The bald eagle’s characteristics
The bald is a sea eagle, the only sea eagle endemic to the United States, and the largest true raptor in North America. Only the California Condor and American White Pelicans are larger.
How much does it weight? How tall is it?
Female bald eagles weigh up to 5.6 kg while the smaller male has an average weight of about 4.1 kg. They measure up to a metre in length and have a wingspan of anything between 1.8 and 2.5 m.
Where does the bald eagle live?
It can be found across most of Canada and Alaska, all of the United States except Hawaii, and Northern Mexico. Birds that reside the furthest away from the equator are the largest in line with Bergmann’s rule.
During breeding season, bald eagles live in wetland habitats including coastal areas, rivers, large lakes, and marshes, with large coniferous and hardwood trees surrounding the water for perching, roosting, and nesting.
It builds the largest nest of any bird in North America with new material added each year until it measures up to 4 m deep and 2.5 m across, and weighs up to 1 metric ton. Nests are reused for about 5 years until they collapse from their weight although one nest in the Midwest was found to have been occupied continuously for 34 years.
They lay between 1 and 3 eggs, but it is rare for all the chicks to survive with the oldest sibling occasionally attacking and killing its younger sibling or siblings. Young eaglets can gain up to 170 g a day in weight which is the fastest growth of any North American bird. They leave the nest at about 10 weeks but will stay with their parents for a further 6 weeks.
Bald eagles are partially migratory and in winter many will move south in search of food, although some will occupy a territory all year round. It is an opportunistic feeder with fish comprising more than half of its diet. They will also take birds and mammals, as well as reptiles, amphibians, and crustaceans. More than 400 species are known to be included in their diet including trout, salmon, catfish, grebes, ducks, herons, egrets, rabbits, turtles, and snakes.
What does the bald eagle eat?
To hunt fish, the bald eagle swoops low over water snatching the fish from beneath the surface with its talons. It eats by holding the fish in one claw and tearing the fish with the other, using ridged barbs on the pads of their toes to help them grasp the fish. Bald eagles have incredibly powerful talons and have been observed carrying a 6.8 kg mule deer, the heaviest verified load for any flying bird.
Fun facts about the bald eagle symbol
1. Bald eagles were once endangered, but because of laws passed to conserve them and ban pesticides that harmed them, they’ve made a serious comeback. They’re not endangered anymore!
2. Bald eagles can live up to 35 years in the wild, and up to 50 in captivity.
3. Here’s a love story for the ages: bald eagles mate for life, with both the mother and the father taking care of the young chicks.
4. Bald eagles are only found on the continent of North America. They can be found up in Alaska and all the way down in Mexico.
5. The wingspan of a bald eagle is between 5 ft 11 in and 7 ft 7 in. That’s longer than the height of the average American!
Why is the Bald eagle the national bird of the USA?
|Photo Bird Spot|
The American bald eagle was chosen as the nation’s symbol for what this bird represents. Eagles have long been known to represent courage, strength, freedom and immortality for generations. The American bald eagle was specifically selected as the primary U.S. symbol due to it being the only eagle indigenous solely to North America.
Beyond a symbol of strength, the bald eagle itself has a long and storied history within the Americas. Native Americans held this bird in high regard, and incorporated it into many stories, symbols and rituals. They prized its tailfeathers and used them in everything from headdresses to jewelry, and even to fletch their arrows.
Even explorers found the eagle a majestic sight. Historical figures Lewis and Clark wrote extensively on bald eagles in their journals, describing the birds with awed words.
Who Decided the American Bald Eagle Was Ideal as a National Emblem?
The Second Continental Congress decided the American bald eagle would represent this nation as its prominent emblem. Not all members of the Second Continental Congress agreed that this bird would be the best symbol, including Benjamin Franklin who wanted a turkey to be named as the American symbol. But, eventually, enough members voted to designate the bald eagle as the national bird and American symbol.
|Did Benjamin Franklin want really want the turkey to be the USA’s national bird? |
It is often said that Benjamin Franklin opposed the choice of bald eagle as the national symbol of the United States in favour of the wild turkey.
Bald Eagle Faced Extinction
Despite its symbolic significance, America’s majestic national bird has faced a real-life threat of extinction. In the late-1800s, the country was home to 100,000 nesting bald eagles, but the number of birds soon dwindled due to such factors as habitat destruction and hunting.
In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, making it illegal to possess, kill or sell the birds. A new new threat arose when they began eating prey contaminated with DDT, a pesticide that came into wide use following World War II. In the 1960s, there were only around 400 breeding pairs left in the continental U.S., and in 1978 the bald eagle was put on the endangered species list.
Thanks to federal protections as well as regulations involving DDT, in 1995 the bald eagle population had recovered enough for the bird’s status to be changed from endangered to threatened, and in 2007 it was removed completely from the list.
More National Symbols of the USA
• Anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"
• Floral Emblem: Rose
• Tree: Oak tree
• Motto: “In God we trust.”
• Flag: The American flag, also known as the Stars and Stripes, among other names.
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