bald-eagleThe bald eagle was chosen in 1782 by our Founding Fathers to be the national bird of the United States and is one of the best known symbols of our Government. The bald eagle can be seen on the Great Seal of the United States, on the Presidential Seal, in the logos of Federal agencies, on coins and paper money, and on postage stamps.

The bald eagle has a white head and tail, dark brown body and wings, and yellow beak, feet, and eyes. The feathers are all brown for the first several years of their life until they are full grown. The name “bald eagle” does not mean that this bird has no feathers. It comes from the word piebald, which refers to the eagle’s light and dark colored feathers. This large, majestic bird can only be found in North America. It is a bird of prey that hunts mainly for fish but will also eat small mammals.

When Europeans first arrived on the North American continent in the 1600s, bald eagle populations were estimated at 25,000 to 50,000 birds, but populations have dropped for many reasons. Eagles were captured for getting too close to poultry or fishing nets; some were captured for falconry; and in modern times, many eagles were poisoned by pesticides. In 1967, the bald eagle was included on the Endangered Species List. Federal laws, such as the Bald Eagle Protection Act, protect the bald eagle and have led to the increase of bald eagle populations.

Bald eagle facts and figures:

  • Bald eagle feathers hold great importance and symbolism among some Native American tribes; there are current eagle feather laws that allow members of some Native American tribes to acquire bald eagle feathers to use for ceremonial dress.
  • In 2007, populations improved so much that the bald eagle was removed from the Endangered Species List.

To learn more about the bald eagle, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site on bald and golden eagles.

Search GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) for Federal Government information on religious or spiritual use of feathers by Native Americans. Title 16 of the U.S. Code has more information on conservation of wildlife.