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On June 20, 1782, the citizens of the newly independent United States of America adopted the bald, or "American," eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) as their national emblem. The first drawings of the national bird lacked detail and looked like any large bird. By 1902, however, the image portrayed on the seal of the United States of America was a more accurate representation of the bald eagle, shown with its white head and tail feathers.
The choice of the bald eagle was not unanimous. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), for one, preferred the wild turkey. Franklin, known for his tongue-in-cheek humor, thought the turkey a sly but brave, intelligent, and prudent bird. He viewed the eagle, on the other hand, as having "a bad moral character" and "not getting his living honestly," since the eagle was known to steal fish from hardworking fishhawks. Franklin also characterized the eagle as cowardly, since the eagle can be chased away by much smaller birds.
Source: The Marshall Cavendish International Wildlife Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 278.
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