The Bald Eagle? How did this magnificent bird, our national icon of strength and independence, come by such a seemingly inaccurate and inappropriate name? Condors and their kin are bald, and with good reason, but their names dignify them beyond their nature.
Osprey, Kites, and Gulls galore proudly feature white feathered heads, without deprecatory names. So why our national emblem?
According to Ernest Choate (Dictionary of Bird Names), the original name was ‘Black Eagle’ but later renamed “Bald” or ‘balled” from the old Middle English name meaning ‘shining white.’
The bird’s original Latin name was Aquila, which for some reason was changed by the American Ornithological Society to Haliaeetus at some point. There doesn’t seem to be much improvement there either.
By Jere French