The Continental Congress put an American bald eagle on the country’s official seal with in 1782, when there were an estimated 50,000 nesting pairs in the United States. But not everyone adored eagles, and by 1963 the lower 48 states was down to only about 417 nesting pairs of the raptors. Here’s how that happened, and what’s happened since.
In the United States, the most famous groundhog prognosticator is Punxsutawney Phil, who every year in western Pennsylvania makes his weather prediction to great ceremony and media attention. You are more likely to be accurate by expecting the opposite of whatever Phil predicts.
People first brought exotic mute swans to North America in the 1870s to decorate country estates, city parks and zoos, and those we see in Massachusetts today are probably descended from birds that escaped from New York – now considered an invasive species by many and huntable in most states.
In this tale of two kinds of wildlife, Thomas Morton created a colony like no other in the North America of the 1600s – opposed to slavery, rejecting religious conservatism and filled with pleasure – then wrote the first book banned in the Americas. One volume had the first recorded documentation of the green-winged teal in the future Massachusetts.
Can we thank or blame one Shakespeare buff named Eugene Schieffelin for all the starlings in America? Maybe not. But they’ve been cast in a villainous role by officials who have spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate them — and must curse the name of Schieffelin and others who thought like him in the 1800s.