The Bald Eagle, National Symbol of the United States of America

 By: C.S. Mackay
The Bald Eagle, National Symbol of the United States of America

For many years I taught my fifth grade students about the symbols of the United States of America. Over the years I have grown to love our national symbol, the American Bald Eagle. Many students are shocked to learn that our national symbol is not the flag, but the Bald Eagle.

In 1782 it was chose as the National Bird and then as our national emblem in 1787. You can find it on the Great Seal of the United States with its wings spread wide and a shield for his breast. The shield has 13 red and white stripes. In its right talon it holds an olive branch and, if you care to count, you will find that the olive branch has 13 leaves and 13 berries. This olive branch represents the United States desire for peace. In the Bald Eagles left talon is a bundle of 13 arrows that represent our willingness to fight for our freedom, if necessary. Finally in its beak is a scroll with the motto "E Pluribus Unum" which means 'one out of many'.

The Bald Eagle also appears on the Presidential Seal, most coins, paper money and many stamps.

There are many types of eagles all over the world, but the American Bald Eagle only lives on the North American Continent. That is one reason that the Golden Eagle was not chosen because it lives in Europe, also.

It has been reported that at one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War the noise of the battle awoke sleeping eagles who flew from their nests circling the men fighting below. Their shrill cries blended with the cries of the fighting men. Some of them said they are "shrieking for freedom".

When born the Bald Eagle is born it is gray and not the graceful bird of flight that you see five years later after it has developed it's white tail feathers and head feathers.

The Bald Eagle is at the top of the food chain living in the tops of lofty mountains and near coasts and lakes where fish abound. They represent boundless freedom as they soar through the blue skies.

When you first see this bird he is really impressive. It has a 2 •½ - 3 foot body and can spread its sings 6-8 feet. When it spreads those wings and takes flight you catch your breath because they are so beautiful. To see their nests (aerie) in trees you would look for a tree that is usually over seventy five feet tall. The nests themselves are about five feet in diameter and just as deep.

There are many interesting facts about the Bald Eagle, such as its diving speed which can reach 100mph as it goes for a fish. At one time they were being killed in record numbers for their beautiful feathers. The government intervened and put them on the endangered list.

The term 'eagle eyes' refers to their ability to see 1•½ miles away. We need to keep an eagle eye on our freedoms that are represented by this noble bird, The American Bald Eagle, so that we don't loose them.
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