The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird

Norton. Mar. 2022. 448p. ISBN 9781631495250. $29.95. NAT HIST
Pulitzer Prize winner Davis (The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea) presents the story of the United States’ national bird. Since 1782, when its image appeared on the national seal, the bald eagle has served as a celebrated American symbol. According to Davis, ornithologists of the 20th century (including John James Audubon) portrayed the bald eagle in a negative light, and many non-Indigenous Americans considered it a shameless, vicious predator. As the author tells, bald eagles were a target of violence, and many were shot or poisoned resulting in a declining population. Conscientious citizens identified the bird’s diminishing numbers with the shrinking of American wilderness as a whole and recognized the need for preservation measures (eventually, 1918’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act and 1940’s Bald Eagle Protection Act).
VERDICT This fascinating and readable work will appeal to fans of the majestic bald eagle and to those interested in the natural, cultural, and political history of the United States.
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