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The Bald Eagle Book

The Bald Eagle Book

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The Bald Eagle Book

161 pages
1 hour
Feb 1, 2020


The Bald Eagle Book presents 145 color photographs of Bald Eagles taken primarily along the Mississippi River but also along the Wisconsin and Blue rivers. It includes a two-part, informative text describing the physical characteristics, habits and various habitats of this majestic species (Part 1) as well as an autobiographical section (Part 2) that traces the author's many years of physically pursuing his subjects. Interestingly enough, everything seems to come to a kind of quiet but enlightening resolution one afternoon when he makes accidental, extra-close contact with an aging subject, a moment he will never forget.
Feb 1, 2020

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The Bald Eagle Book - G. Cope Schellhorn


Part I

The Bald Eagles of North America

Eagles in World History

All Bald Eagles are inspiring. Just ask any ten-year-old. They are by their nature large, strong and impressive creatures. It isn’t surprising that people the world over often have chosen eagles to be emblematic of their culture.

The ancient Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians used an eagle as a national symbol as did the early Egyptians. Eagles were important as well to the Greeks and Romans. In ancient Greece Zeus, head of the pantheon of Olympian gods, was known at times to take the shape of an eagle. The Rome of the Caesars chose a black double-headed eagle as a national emblem, as did the later Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires. Eagle state symbols still exist in Montenegro, Moldovia, Serbia and Poland.

None of these eagles were, however, the Bald Eagle. That species is found only in North America and can be seen from northern Mexico, in all of the contiguous 48 states of the U.S.A., throughout much of Canada and over at least half of Alaska. It does not occur in the state of Hawaii. The Golden Eagle is found much less frequently than the Bald Eagle in most of the U.S. and is especially uncommon in the eastern, southeastern and Midwestern states.

Blue River, Muscoda, Wisconsin.

The Bald Eagle and the National Emblem

Even in the early days of the original 13 American colonies, the Bald Eagle caught the fancy of colonists young and old. How it became the national bird and national emblem is an interesting story.

Before the colonies became an official nation, the First Continental Congress voted for the Bald Eagle to appear on the original Great Seal of the fledgling nation in 1782. In 1784 the Second Continental Congress voted for it to be considered the national bird. Finally, in 1789, after the acceptance of the Constitution of the United States, the new Congress voted to make the Bald Eagle the official national emblem. Not, however, without some interesting earlier controversy.

Many delegates to the early Continental Congresses did not favor the Bald Eagle as a national emblem. Two very famous delegates, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, each had their own favorite ideas.

Mississippi River, Brownsville, Minnesota.

Mississippi River, Reno Overlook, Reno, Minnesota.

This head-on shot is a favorite of mine. I like the immature's cute facial expression. Of course, I should admit I also said that once about a skunk's facial expression. I'll stand by both statements.

Mississippi River, Wabasha, Minnesota.

The First Continental Congress then asked both of them, along with John Adams, to form a committee to design an official national seal. Franklin’s offering featured Moses leading the Israelites with a beam from heaven validating him as God’s chosen leader. Jefferson liked Franklin’s idea for one side of the seal but proposed two Saxon chiefs, Hengist and Horsa, for the reverse side. In the end, the three famous legislators could not agree on a design that would win Congressional approval. Two later committees also failed.

Mississippi River backwater, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. A nice photo of a mated pair.

Another Bald Eagle pair tree-sitting at the edge of the town of Grantsburg, Wisconsin.

Mississippi River, Winona, Minnesota.

Blue River, Muscoda, Wisconsin. I inadvertently bothered an eagle nest and raised a fury.

Blue River, Muscoda, Wisconsin. Another angry fly-over.

Blue River, Wisconsin. This series of five portraits is a brown-colored version of the usually more black-colored immatures. Both brown and black versions usually have a lot of white flecking.

In 1782, the work of all three committees was given to Charles Thompson, Secretary of this sitting Continental Congress. He chose what he considered the best elements of the various designs offered earlier and made the eagle, formerly introduced by Pennsylvania lawyer William Barton (a member of the third committee), larger and more prominent. He also changed its color from mostly white (an eagle which didn’t actually exist in reality) to the image of a Bald Eagle. This Continental Congress approved of the design and adopted it as the national emblem to appear on the great Seal of the U.S.A. on June 20, 1782.

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