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Desert Diary
Culture/Eagle Symbols


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The United States and Mexico have eagles as national symbols. Are these really appropriate though? Both the Bald Eagle and the Mexican Caracara scavenge much of their sustenance, and neither is above hijacking food from more industrious hunters. We might consider the words of Benjamin Franklin, perhaps uttered a bit facetiously, regarding the choice of the Bald Eagle as our national symbol.

"For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; 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."

On the other hand, Franklin made an excellent case for the rattlesnake as our national symbol!
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Web Resources

The Eagle and the Turkey

Franklin and the Rattlesnake