The eagle or the turkey? July 2, 2012Posted by Ilana DeBare in Birding
By Ilana DeBare
We all know and love the Bald Eagle, the subject of this remarkable composite photo taken on April 22 at Calaveras Reservoir by Leo Wang.
But did you know that Benjamin Franklin would have preferred the Wild Turkey as our national bird? Here’s what he wrote in a 1784 letter to his daughter, in response to selection of the eagle as symbol of the Cincinnati of America, a new society of revolutionary war officers:
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. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. 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 Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…
I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.
We respectfully differ with Mr. Franklin on his judgment of Bald Eagles as lazy and immoral, although we admit to liking turkeys too, especially the ones that can be found strutting down the middle of city streets these days in Berkeley and Oakland.
Leo Wang created his image from a series of six photos of an eagle returning to its nest, which he merged in post-production. A pair of eagles were raising two chicks, with one hunting while the other watched the nest.
Here’s a more conventional but equally amazing photo of our national bird by raptor photographer Nick Dunlop of Sebastopol:
Bald Eagle? Wild Turkey? Or something entirely different — say, an American Avocet?
What bird would you choose to represent our country?
Happy Independence Day!Tags: Bald Eagle, Benjamin Franklin, Independence Day, national bird, Wild Turkey.