Of Bad Moral Character:
The bald eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. Its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States, and northern Mexico. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting.
The bald eagle is an opportunistic feeder which subsists mainly on fish, which it swoops down and snatches from the water with its talons. It builds the largest nest of any North American bird and the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal species, up to 13 ft deep, 8.2 ft wide, and 1 metric ton in weight.
Bald eagles are not actually bald; the name derives from an older meaning of the word, “white headed”. The adult is mainly brown with a white head and tail.
The bald eagle is a powerful flier, and soars on thermal convection currents. It reaches speeds of 35–43 mph when gliding and flapping, and about 30 mph while carrying fish. Its dive speed is between 75–99 mph, though it seldom dives vertically.
The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States of America. The founders of the United States were fond of comparing their new republic with the Roman Republic, in which eagle imagery (usually involving the golden eagle) was prominent. On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress adopted the design for the Great Seal of the United States depicting a bald eagle grasping 13 arrows and an olive branch with its talons.
The bald eagle appears on most official seals of the U.S. government, including the presidential seal, the presidential flag, and in the logos of many U.S. federal agencies. Between 1916 and 1945, the presidential flag (but not the seal) showed an eagle facing to its left (the viewer’s right), which gave rise to the urban legend that the flag is changed to have the eagle face towards the olive branch in peace, and towards the arrows in wartime.
Contrary to popular legend, there is no evidence that Benjamin Franklin ever publicly supported the wild turkey, rather than the bald eagle, as a symbol of the United States. However, in a letter written to his daughter in 1784 from Paris, criticizing the Society of the Cincinnati, he stated his personal distaste for the bald eagle’s behavior. In the letter Franklin states:
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. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest.