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Symbols of U.S. Government:
The Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is a large, powerful, brown bird with a white head and tail. The term "bald" does not mean that this bird lacks feathers. Instead, it comes from the word piebald, an old word, meaning "marked with white."

The bald eagle was made the national bird of the United States in 1782. The image of the bald eagle can be found in many places in the U.S., such as on the Great Seal, Federal agency seals, the President's flag, and on the one-dollar bill.

Why was the bald eagle chosen as our national symbol?

The Bald EagleThe Founding Fathers wanted to choose an animal that was unique to the United States. For six years, the members of Congress engaged in a dispute over what the national emblem should be. As a result of the debate, the bald eagle was chosen because it symbolized strength, courage, freedom, and immortality and that it would look much better as our national symbol.

When Europeans first arrived on the North American continent in the 1600's, there were an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 bald eagles, but populations have since dropped for many reasons. Many eagles were captured for getting too close to poultry or fishing nets; some were captured for falconry; and many eagles were poisoned by pesticides. In 1967, the bald eagle was included on the Endangered Species List. Federal laws, such as the Bald Eagle Protection Act, protect the bald eagle and have led to the recovery of bald eagle populations. In 2007, populations have improved and the the bald eagle was removed from the list.

To learn more, check out the following links:

  • Read the final rule to remove the bald eagle in the lower 48 states from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife in the Federal Register [Text, PDF].
  • Read the proposed rule to remove the bald eagle from the Endangered Species List in the Federal Register [Text, PDF].
  • Read when the bald eagle was downgraded from endangered to threatened on the Endangered Species List in the Federal Register [Text, PDF].
  • Learn more about the endangered and threatened wildlife and plants in the Code of Federal Regulations (50CFR17).
  • Read laws protecting bald eagles in the U.S. Code (Title 16, Chapter 5a).
  • Learn more about the history of the bald eagle from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Learn more about the bald eagle and the Endangered Species List from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
  • Read about the bald eagle's removal from the Endagered Species List at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.