Benjamin Franklin famously did not like the Bald Eagle as a choice for the national bird of the United States of America. There’s an old urban legend floating around that he advocated for the turkey, but there’s no evidence of this. He did, however, write:
“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. He does not get his living honestly … besides he is a rank coward: The little king bird not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district.”
To his credit, he’s right, in a way. Bald Eagles are opportunistic and do not hunt quite like the falcons or most hawks. They have no issue eating recently killed prey and won’t spend a lot of time stalking. They are not the most sportsmanlike of raptors.
But by golly are they beautiful.
There is no bird of prey more easily identifiable than the Bald Eagle. Their white head feathers over their brown bodies with white tails, their angry scowls, and their fearsome beaks and talons make them stand apart. I do not believe there is any raptor more beautiful and majestic in appearance than the Bald Eagle.
Though they opportunistic hunters bordering on being scavengers, Bald Eagles have no problem defending themselves. They are larger than most birds and their talons and sharp beaks make them dangerous. They’ll even attack humans if their territories – and especially their nests — are threatened.
Bald Eagles prefer fish as their main food source. However, they’ll also eat just about any other meat they can get their talons on. Their second favorite food is other birds, mostly sea birds. They won’t spend a great deal of time stalking or chasing prey, instead going after slower, larger birds like Mallards, grebes, or Canada Geese. They’ll also eat mammals. There are over 400 recorded species that Bald Eagles will eat. They are not picky.
We almost lost the Bald Eagle. I don’t think people realize just how close we got to Bald Eagles being completely extinct in the wild. This was due to a pesticide called DDT that would thin egg shells, causing Bald Eagle eggs to become so weak that they couldn’t withstand an adult brooding on them. Even someone who has the most basic of bird knowledge knows that brooding is a completely essential part of raising eggs into chicks.
In 1972, DDT was outlawed. In addition, several other regulations were put in place to protect eagles. Due to this, Bald Eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 1995. They are now not even considered threatened with the eagles thriving so much in some areas that they are considered a pest!
The Bald Eagle proves that humans can cause damage to the environment. Sometimes this damage is permanent. Think of the dodo or the Carolina Parakeet. We will never get to see these birds. The Bald Eagle was almost the same. But their rebound from the brink of extinction shows that we can make a difference. The cause for saving the birds we do have is not lost. Let’s do our parts!
I would be remiss not to talk about Wazoo, the Bald Eagle from all of the pictures. Like the other two featured birds, Wazoo is a permanent resident at Eagle Valley Raptor Center. Wazoo was originally from North Carolina where he suffered a debilitating wing injury. You might notice in some of the pictures he holds his wing kind of funny. Wazoo can still fly, but only for short distances. Wazoo would not survive in the wild and have lived in captivity for over twenty years. Despite this, I’m convinced Wazoo lives the best life he can live at EVRC. It was an absolute delight feeding him mice and watching him in his enclosure. We even got to go in and get super close!
Tell me what you think!