National American Eagle Day Date in the current year: June 20, 2024

National American Eagle Day National American Eagle Day, also known as simply American Eagle Day, is celebrated annually on June 20. It was created to commemorate the day in 1782 when the final design of the Great Seal of the United States, with a bald eagle holding an olive branch and a bundle of 13 arrows, was submitted to the Congress.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a North American bird of prey whose range includes most of Canada and Alaska, the entirety of the contiguous United States, and northern Mexico. Despite their name, bald eagles do have feathers on their heads; the name of the species derives from an older meaning of the word bald, “white headed”.

But why is the bald eagle also called the American eagle? The answer is simple: it has been the national bird of the United States for more than two centuries. The Founding Fathers of the United States liked to compare their new republic with the Roman Republic, which prominently used an eagle (aquila) as one of its military symbols, and this eventually found its reflection in the Great Seal of the United States.

The Great Seal was co-designed by the heraldist William Barton and the secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson. It incorporated a bald eagle holding an olive branch in its right talon, thirteen arrows in its left talon, and a scroll bearing the motto E pluribus unum (“Out of many, one”) in its beak. The design was submitted to the Congress on June 20, 1782 and approved on the same day.

The bald eagle nearly went extinct in the mid-20th century due to a combination of factors, such as the use of the pesticide DDT that affected the eggs of bald eagles, illegal shooting, pollution, and collision with power lines and motor vehicles. Once plentiful throughout the contiguous states, the bald eagle population was reduced to only 412 nesting pairs in the 1950s.

The bald eagle was first protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. In 1940, the Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act (later expanded to include the golden eagle). In 1967, the bald eagle was declared an endangered species, and five years later, DDT was banned in the United States. The ban of DDT, the legal protection of the bald eagle, and the protection of its habitat helped save the bald eagle from extinction. It was reclassified to threatened in 1995 and removed from the list of endangered and threatened species in 2007.

American Eagle Day was launched by the American Eagle Foundation (AEF), a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 to protect the bald eagle and other birds of prey. The observance was first recognized by Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist and President Bill Clinton. Since the inception of American Eagle Day, the AEF has been campaigning to have the observance recognized by all 50 states.

The main goals of National American Eagle Day are to celebrate the bald eagle as the national symbol of the United States and raise awareness of its successful conservation story. You can observe the holiday by learning more about the bald eagle and how it was saved from extinction, donating to or volunteering for a conservation organization of your choice because there are still many species that desperately need our help, going birdwatching, and spreading the word on social media with the hashtags #NationalAmericanEagleDay and #AmericanEagleDay.

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