Franklin’s lament of the choice of bald eagle comes from a letter he wrote in 1784. He was remarking upon the medal of the Society of the Cincinnati, which representatives of the new nation were taking to France to bestow upon those who had helped in the American Revolution. The medals depicted a bald eagle that some people thought looked more like a turkey. The suggestion sent Franklin into a thorough drubbing of the eagle’s merits as a symbol. He called it “a Bird of bad moral Character” that “does not get his Living honestly.”
ShareYou may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk [Osprey]; 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.Sick burn, Franklin! Stealing food out of a baby’s mouth! Got anything else?
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.Bam! Franklin is being pretty selective with his facts, though. While, yes, bald eagles will steal food from ospreys and eat carrion, they’re excellent fishermen. Additionally, birds of prey—including hawks and owls—are constantly being harassed by smaller birds. In fact, birders know to follow the sound of scolding birds in order to find these larger birds.
What about turkeys, Ben?
(Read more.)For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and 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.