Originally published June 2017; updated June 2023.
The Bald Eagle has been an indelible part of American culture for centuries. Even before it was crowned our national bird, it was sacred in many Native American cultures and a symbol of courage, wisdom, and strength.
Bald Eagles were once in danger of extinction, their numbers reduced to fewer than 500 nests in the Lower 48 by 1963. They had been decimated by human persecution and exposure to the pesticide DDT, which caused widespread breeding failures. In 1978, they were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act across most of the United States. With greater environmental awareness and conservation efforts since then, they have made a spectacular comeback—by 2021 there were an estimated 316,000 individuals in the Lower 48.
In celebration of Independence Day, please enjoy these images of our nation’s symbol in action. Special thanks to the photographers for sharing these moments with us!