Can we all take a moment and be grateful that, for all his contributions to our nation’s founding, Ben Franklin didn’t get his wish that the turkey become our national bird? I mean, I like turkey at Thanksgiving as much as the next guy, but for majesty and stature, it’s hard to match the bald eagle.
The bald eagle is the only eagle unique to North America. It’s no longer on the list of endangered wildlife, I’m happy to report, though it’s still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. (As is the chimney swift, as I found out all too well this summer.)
For today’s lesson in Old English, we find that the word “bawld” originally meant “white,” not “hairless.” And as you can see in these pictures, the bald eagle is crowned in white, much like Steve Martin or James Coburn. Or me, for that matter.
About half of the population of about 70,000 live in Alaska, and another 20,000 reside in nearby British Columbia. One of the primary reasons for the concentration in the Pacific Northwest is the presence of salmon, the favorite food of bald eagles. I doubt if Ben Franklin ever tasted, or for that matter, ever heard of salmon. No wonder he thought the gobbler was nobler.