Symbolism and Patriotism: The American Bald Eagle in Popular Culture

Symbolism and Patriotism: The American Bald Eagle in Popular Culture

The latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report found huge increases in the bald eagle population in America. The bald eagle population climbed to an estimated 316,700 individual bald eagles, including 71,400 nesting pairs.

The American bald eagle holds a special place in history and culture and is native to most American states.

Its symbolic value means it has remained as a beacon of what it means to be American and how others view the country.

The History of the Symbol of the American Bald Eagle

The founders of the United States had a fondness for comparing their nation to the ancient Roman Republic and as such, the eagle symbol often came up in discussion. In 1872, Congress adopted the American bald eagle as an element of their emblem.

The bald eagle is featured grasping 13 arrows and seated on an olive branch featuring 13 leaves. It appears on almost all official US government seals including the presidential flag and seal. The bird is said to represent strength, price, and courage. Its ability to fly is also a pertinent reminder of our freedom and liberty.

Eagles are also a powerful symbol in indigenous American culture, with chieftains often wearing headdresses made from eagle feathers to show their authority and position within the tribe.

Bald Eagles in Popular Culture

Eagles are regularly used in film, television, and entertainment due to their well-known symbolism. Movies such as Chuck Norris’ Forest Warrior and Brothers of the Wind explore this symbolism but also the true majesty of the birds.

You will also regularly see the eagle symbol used in advertising, by brands looking to assert their true American nature and in fun online and social games where you can line up fun eagle graphics and attempt to win.

In literature, J.R.R. Tolkien has a trio of super-sized great eagles in the Lord of the Rings, all able to speak and help in the most difficult moments during the quest, including rescuing Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom.

What does the future hold for the American Bald Eagle?

As already explained, bald eagle populations are on the increase and the birds are benefiting from changes to laws across the nation, protecting their species. The American bald eagle was one of the first animals to ever be placed on the Endangered Species List and more needs to be done to protect them.

As recently as the 19th century bald eagles were facing extinction. They were regarded as vermin and shot by farmers and as pesticides became more commonplace, populations were put at further risk.

The most damaging chemical, DDT, was ingested by the birds, began to build up in their systems and led to eggs hatching with shells too thin to incubate. This chemical was banned in the USA in 1973 and since then the bald eagle and other species have slowly begun to recover.

With help from Canada and the release of young eagles from our neighbors, the American bald eagle has once again begun to flourish.

In 2007, the species was declared fully recovered and you’re much more likely to spot a bald eagle than you were 10 or 20 years ago.

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