The Bald Eagle

The Improbable Journey of America's Bird

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Pub Date 1 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2022

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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Gulf, a sweeping cultural and natural history of the bald eagle in America.

The bald eagle is regal but fearless, a bird you’re not inclined to argue with. For centuries, Americans have celebrated it as “majestic” and “noble,” yet savaged the living bird behind their national symbol as a malicious predator of livestock and, falsely, a snatcher of babies. Taking us from before the nation’s founding through inconceivable resurgences of this enduring all-American species, Jack E. Davis contrasts the age when native peoples lived beside it peacefully with that when others, whether through hunting bounties or DDT pesticides, twice pushed Haliaeetus leucocephalus to the brink of extinction.

Filled with spectacular stories of Founding Fathers, rapacious hunters, heroic bird rescuers, and the lives of bald eagles themselves—monogamous creatures, considered among the animal world’s finest parents—The Bald Eagle is a much-awaited cultural and natural history that demonstrates how this bird’s wondrous journey may provide inspiration today, as we grapple with environmental peril on a larger scale.

About the Author: Jack E. Davis is the author of the award-winning The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea and An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century. A professor of environmental history at the University of Florida, he lives in Florida and New Hampshire.

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Gulf, a sweeping cultural and natural history of the bald eagle in America.

The bald eagle is regal but fearless, a bird you’re not inclined to argue...

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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781631495250
PRICE US$29.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I honestly don’t think that a book can possibly be any more thorough and comprehensive on the cultural and natural history of the bald eagle than Jack E. Davis’s latest work, "The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey."

In the very unlikely event that someone does pull off such a feat, then I still strongly doubt anyone can match the spectacular accessibility of the author’s writing. It’s a challenge enough as it is to research an extensive history on any topic. But no less difficult is presenting such histories in a way that doesn’t result in a dry information dump that either easily exhausts a reader, swamps them, or both. The balancing act is a tricky one, but Davis most definitely pulls it off in spades here. His sweeping history includes, but is not limited to, the roles of eagles in the culture and rituals of various indigenous American tribes, the long era era that the birds spent as a paradox as both treasured national symbol and loathed predatory pest, the two different times they were pushed to the brink of extinction and the measures taken to bring them back. Yet the wealth of knowledge delivered through the book’s over four hundred pages never felt overwhelming. If anything, I felt like I was able to absorb it almost effortlessly. His writing flows with both clarity and an enthusiasm for his subject material that proves wonderfully infectious. However, this passion never veers anywhere close to fawning, which given just how over the top the bald eagle’s totemic treatment can get in the US, is a relief. He grants respect to where it’s due, and withholds it from where it’s not, and has a total lack of patience for misconceptions or myths that I much appreciated. For example, a line that stood out to me early on:

“The Founders - who disallowed women’s rights, regarded Indians as uncivilized, and held Africans and African Americans in bondage - failed to live up to their own philosophy, falsifying the freedoms embodied in their iconic bird to the benefit of white privilege.”

I can now see how he’s earned himself a Pulitzer, amongst other awards, for his prior major work “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea” (a work that has now been added to my to-read itinerary).

With a newfound fascination for a very particular bird sparking off within, I am happy to declare this not just a fantastic work of nonfiction, but one of my favorite reads of the year.

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