Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle, Klamath Basin, California

Bald Eagle, Klamath Basin, California

Honoring the bald eagle as America’s national emblem is a tradition dating back to the Continental Congress.  Today we continue to celebrate this bird as the population experiences a resurgence.


In 1782 the bald eagle was selected as the new country’s official symbol, and the design of the Great Seal of the United States was created.


Seal of the President of the United States. Courtesy Wikipedia

As the national bird, the bald eagle appears on official U.S. seals, the presidential seal and flag, coins, currency, and more.


Native to North America, Haliaeetus leucocephalus has represented many ideals to United States citizens.


Bald Eagle, Sacramento NWR, California

Bald Eagle, Sacramento NWR, California

The founding fathers chose the bald eagle as a symbol of supreme power and authority, at a time when this newly forged country had to demonstrate their ability to be strong and independent.


The only sea eagle endemic to this continent, they have a seven foot (2.13 m) wingspan and weigh approximately ten pounds (4 kg).  Fierce fliers, they can reach speeds of 35-43 mph (56-70 km/h).


A long-lived bird (30-35 years), the eagle also represents longevity.  Native Americans honor the bald eagle for courage, wisdom, and strength.


In the 18th century there were 300,000-500,000 bald eagles soaring above the 48 contiguous states.


Bald Eagle, Sacramento NWR, California

Bald Eagle, Sacramento NWR, California

In the 19th century, as more Europeans settled in America, farming increased.


This opportunistic carnivore, hunting fish, birds, and mammals, unfortunately became known as a farming threat, and was frequently shot on sight.


Bald Eagle, Klamath Basin, California

Bald Eagle, Klamath Basin, California

In the 20th century, with the extensive use of pesticides, especially DDT, the decline of the bald eagle reached an all-time low.



Requiring 4-5 years to breed, in addition to persecution, poisoning, and declining habitat, the population severely declined:  412 pairs in the 1950s.  By 1967 the bald eagle had become endangered.


In 1940 the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was approved, and in 1972 DDT in the U.S. was banned.


Bald Eagle Range Map

Bald Eagle range map. Courtesy

A remarkable success story, today bald eagles can be found throughout the U.S. and Canada.


Click here for more bald eagle information.  National refuges with bald eagles here; and more viewing venues here.


The first time I ever saw a wild bald eagle, I was canoeing in Washington State.  In the distance I saw a white spot, the size of a pinhead, in the forest.  Since then I have seen numerous bald eagles, sometimes in refuges that previously did not have them.


My favorite bald eagle experience was in Klamath Basin on the California-Oregon border.  It was frigid in January, and 5 a.m., as we waited for the sun to rise when the wintering population would leave their nighttime roosts.


A few early risers at a time, the bald eagles began to lift from the treetops, culminating to a count of 49.  We stood by the car, alone in the freezing morning, as bald eagles surrounded us and then disappeared into the day.


240 years after our country’s government and livelihood was established, we continue to embrace this powerful bird.


Happy Fourth!


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander




62 thoughts on “Bald Eagle

  1. Thanks for the great article, Jet. I love bald eagles. Whenever we are on the road, I always look for them. I think that is the only reason to own a car with a sunroof!
    240 years? I can’t believe it. Didn’t we celebrate 200 last year? ;-(
    Happy Today.

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Helen. I love it that you are always looking for the bald eagle, that’s the only way to see it, by looking. I, too, keep the sunroof open to view more of the open sky and its creatures. My warm wishes to you for a happy holiday.

  2. Thank you, Jet for the historical and background information of the majestic bald eagle! They also symbolize the freedom. Thank you for sharing your experience, I’d be in tears if I saw one…

  3. Thanks for the reminder of the origins of the Bald Eagle as a national symbol and its history here in the US. I too am thrilled every time that I see one. Happy 4th of July to you and to Athena.

    • I am delighted you enjoyed the bald eagle post today, Mike, and really appreciate your kind comment. I am enjoying the day, and I trust you are too. Many thanks~~

  4. Great post for the Fourth of July. I am happy to have shared that spotting in Washington with you! Did you happen to watch the Eagle Cam in Alexandria, VA, this spring as it captured the progress of two eagle eggs hatching? A small camera was situated above their nest in a tree along the Potomac River. Fascinating.

    • I am happy to have shared that canoe ride and first bald eagle spotting with you, too, Nan. And today we hung our flag, also a treasure from you, flown at our nation’s capitol. I did not see the eagle cam with eaglets, but what a wonderful thing to have captured. Many thanks and much love~~

  5. Love the photos and the info on this magnificent creature. Thank you Jet and Happy 4th! I will be up The Knight Inlet and Vancouver Island for the salmon run and I hope to see many of these gorgeous birds.

    • Oh what a treat that will be, spotting bald eagles (and bears?) at the salmon run. I really appreciate your comment and visit, Cindy, and wish you a Happy Fourth.

  6. Jet, recently I was surprised to come upon Benjamin Franklin’s unflattering opinion of the Bald Eagle. In a letter to his daughter penned on January 26, 1784, he wrote:

    “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. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…

    “I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. 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.”

    • Thanks for the info Hien. I found in my research that B. Franklin never mentioned any bird in his proposal for the national seal, but that he did mention in a letter to his daughter, why he thought the bald eagle inappropriate. Nice to see the letter excerpt here, therefore, in Franklin’s playful style. Thank you for your contribution my friend.

  7. Happy 4th July dear Jet…….The Bald Eagle is indeed an awesome creature and the perfect symbol for the USA. I am currently reading the book ‘Barkskins’ – by Annie Proulx and so far it is amazing, however the reason I bring it up is because it speaks of the North American continent when first settled….and how limitless it seemed the forests, and all other natural resources were. Of course, time has taught us otherwise….. Hope you are enjoying the fireworks:)

    • I have not read Barkskins, but the journey over the past few centuries of our natural resources on North America is an interesting story. One such example being the bald eagle species and its ups and downs. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post, Janet, and as always, I so appreciate your visits, wisdom, and presence.

    • Thanks so much, Lola — I’m glad you enjoyed the bald eagle post. I had a wonderfully relaxing and easy holiday, and trust you did too. My best to you for a great week ahead.

  8. Jet I am so excited to tell you that in the final minutes of our cycling tour in the Canadian Rockies yesterday we saw a massive bald eagle. It was as if a special congratulations from nature just happened to come by. such a coincidence it seems to find your wonderful post and Athena’s gorgeous photos.

    • I have been away and catching up, so I just spent a lovely visit tooling around your blog, Sue, taking in all the beauty of your travels in your recent posts. I was especially impressed with your Four Day cycling tour, and now I am really excited to know you had the blessings of a bald eagle in your final minutes. What a total thrill that must have been!! And how fun that I’d been researching and writing about the bald eagle as you two were seeing one up so close. Thanks so much for sharing this, Sue — and again, congrats!

      • It was a blessing indeed Jet. The funny thing was that the spot is one Dave and I have likely been 50 times. It’s just outside of Banff and we have never seen an eagle there let alone one this big. The world is a marvelous and mysterious place.

  9. Wonderful, Jet! They are such magnificent birds. We’ve been camping in Clayoquot on the west coast of Vancouver Island the past few days, and bald eagles were everywhere. It’s an event for us every time we spot one (and they’re easy to spot here), such a thrill!
    I hope you had an enjoyable day yesterday!

    • Oh how delightful to see bald eagles everywhere! I am happy to know you and Mrs. PC are camping and adventuring, dear friend, and I love imagining you two on Vancouver Island. I’ve only been there once, and only in Victoria, and it is so beautiful. Have fun!

  10. It is an amazing success story. We ran into some bald eagles in Juneau Alaska but they were pretty shy! Hope your Fourth was a great one!

    • Alaska is a terrific place to see bald eagles, I’m really glad you’ve seen them, Jan. I had a wonderful and relaxing holiday weekend, and hope your week is going well. Thank you so much~~

  11. A wonderful post Jet! The bald eagle is such an impressive sight. We got used to seeing them Alberta in spring time when they came north to breed. And we saw a LOT of them in Alaska. Still every time I see one it feels very special.

    • It’s delightful that there are so many bald eagles in Alaska. I have read there are lots of bald eagles in MN and FL, but where I have seen them in many different places is in Alaska, like you, Inger. And what a joy it is. And I also feel like every time I see one it is special. Thanks so much, Inger — always a pleasure.

  12. Thanks for including a range map, Jet. I didn’t know these were summer breeders in Florida. I’m amazed that none of these strong-flying birds has made the relatively short flight across from Fl. to Abaco – or, closer still, to Grand Bahama… RH

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