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The American Eagle and What it Stands For

Let’s take a look at our standard of freedom, the Bald Eagle.

The bald eagle was chosen on June 20, 1782 to represent America has our national emblem. It was selected because of its majestic looks and strength. At that time it was believed not to be found on any other continent. It has become a tradition to display the eagle or the seal of the United States, which has an eagle on it, in locations where the federal government has buildings or offices located. The emblem is found on currency and seals that are stamped on letters.

It is found on the backs of coins. There it is found clutching arrows and reeds of wheat. These stand for strength in peace and war. It also shows the eagle with outspread wings to indicate freedom.

It is said that the eagle was used as our national emblem because during one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, the noise of the struggle early in the morning woke the eagles from their nests. They circled overhead. Many of the men fighting said that the shrieking sounded like the word freedom.

At the “Second Continental Congress”, a committee which featured Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, decided to make the eagle our National emblem. At first, Franklin wanted to use a turkey. He thought that the eagle was a creature that showed he was a coward by stealing food. He even went so far as to write an article telling others why the eagle shouldn’t be used as our national emblem. However, the others convinced him that the majestic eagle showed strength and intelligence. The brother of a naturalist living in Philadelphia, provided a drawing showing an eagle displayed as the symbol of “supreme power and authority.” Congress liked the drawing. It was officially accepted in 1787 as the official seal of the United States. The artists that drew up the first sketch of the eagle with a shield was John James Audubon. The shield had 13 stripes representing the original 13 colonies.

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The scientific name for the eagle is Haliaeetus leucocephalus. The name signifies a sea eagle with a white head. About half of the world’s population 70,000 live in Alaska. There are two sub species of eagles in the US. The northern and southern. The northern are located north of the 40 degree latitude. The southern is found in the gulf states.

There are many places in the United States where people can go and view the majestic bird in its habitat. Just north of St. Louis, Missouri many people travel to the Alton, Illinois area to view the bird. It migrates there in the winter time. It is not unusual to see people there taking pictures of the bird.

In 1967 they were declared on the endangered species list. Up until that time, many hunters had eagles killed and mounted for display. In 1995 the US Fish and Wildlife Service had it upgraded to a “threatened” list in the lower 48 states. The bald eagle is protected by “The Migratory Bird Act” and the “Bald and Golden Eagle Act”. The Bald and Golden Eagle Act makes it illegal to sale barter, trade, transport, import, export, and possess an eagle. A person caught with a feather or a part of the eagle is subject to a felony crime with a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment. Only native Americans are allowed to possess these parts because of their culture. They have to get a permit through “The national eagle repository”. The repository collects feathers and parts of eagles that are already dead. The tribes have to be registered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Applicants may have to wait for up to 3 and half years.

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In recent years, some states have publicized crimes against eagles to discourage others. It is intended to remind all of us to protect our American emblem from extinction.