Friday, November 23, 2012

Bald Eagle

Very late in the afternoon during John Holden's and my swan expedition down the Mississippi River, the fog finally lifted. The Mississippi in southeastern Minnesota is a great place to watch Bald Eagles. Eagles are so inspiring that the species was adopted by the American congress for the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. Most birders are aware that Benjamin Franklin was not pleased by this decision. Although he did not express his opinions elsewhere, he wrote the following paragraphs to his daughter in 1784:

"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. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

"With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. 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… 

"For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.” This quote is reported in and only slightly edited in this post.

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