Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Guin from Fort Riley. Guin Wonders, “Why is the bald eagle a symbol of the United States?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Guin!
What’s the most American thing you can imagine? How about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington? What if they were flying around the Statue of Liberty on the backs of bald eagles? What if they were also waving copies of the Declaration of Independence?
That would be a sight! However, many might argue the most inspiring of all is the fierce bald eagle. With its huge wingspan and sharp talons, the bald eagle is a symbol of strength. It’s no WONDER it’s the national bird of the United States!
Bald eagles are still a rare sight. In most parts of the United States, you won’t look out your window and see a bald eagle. Instead, you might see flocks of pigeons, blackbirds, or cardinals. That is, unless you live in the bald eagle capital of the U.S.
What U.S. city do you think is the nation‘s bald eagle capital? Would you guess Washington, D.C.? Philadelphia? Maybe Boston? These cities are all important in U.S. history. However, the nation’s bald eagle capital is a place you might not expect. It’s a city called Unalaska, Alaska.
Unalaska is off mainland Alaska and is home to fewer than 5,000 people. Unalaska Island is nearly 80 miles long, but most of the population lives in the same few square miles. They share that area with about 600 bald eagles. Sounds like it might get pretty crowded!
Why do so many bald eagles flock to Unalaska? The answer is quite simple: food. Wouldn’t you move to live near your favorite food? Bald eagles love fish. In fact, fish makes up most of their diet. Unalaska sits right next to Dutch Harbor, one of the world’s largest fishing ports. As boats pull into the harbor, bald eagles swarm them. The eagles steal as many fish as they can before crew members shoo them away.
Bald eagles like to make their nests near their food source. They usually nest in trees. However, Unalaska has very few trees. Instead, they make their nests on top of tall cliffs or in man-made structures.
Since bald eagles are also territorial, their nesting habits create problems for the people who live in Unalaska. According to experts, people are more likely to be attacked by a bald eagle in Unalaska than anywhere else. A dozen or more people end up in the hospital every year with injuries caused by eagle talons.
Like pigeons in large cities, bald eagles are pests to many of the residents of Unalaska. They dig in their trash and attack their livestock. Nevertheless, they’re still the national bird. As a result, Unalaska residents respect them despite everything.
How would you like to visit Unalaska? Have you ever seen a bald eagle in real life? Many times, you can travel as far as the nearest zoo for the bald eagle experience. No matter where you see this American symbol, remember to keep your distance!
Standards: NGSS.LS4.C, NGSS.LS4.D, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2