What does the Bald Eagle Symbolize in the USA?

The bald eagle is the most famous type of eagle in the world. It’s a national symbol of the United States of America, bringing a great deal of other symbolic meanings to the table.

Bald Eagle symbolism extends to what the founding fathers thought about America in the future. As such, it’s symbolic of freedom, independence, strength, divinity, renewed life, and direction.

John F. Kennedy once wrote:

The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolize the strength and freedom of America”.

Interestingly though, some of the greatest figures in the history of the United States of America were against the bald eagle as a symbol of the USA, including Benjamin Franklin.

Read on to find out more interesting meanings and facts about the bald eagle.

> This article is from our A-Z series on bird symbolism.

Bald Eagle Meaning

Let’s look at some of the most common but also surprising meanings of the bald eagle.

1. Freedom

The number one thing we think about when we see a bald eagle is freedom. This bird is free to fly anywhere it wants, and it’s capable of flying very high so that it has a great view of its surroundings and what is below it.

The eaglets are encouraged to emancipate from their parents at a very early age. As soon as they develop wings and they grow up a bit, they are almost forced to learn how to fly, or else they’re bound to fail. This sort of mentality of “to be or not to be” puts the eaglet into an uncomfortable position.

However, once it’s capable of flying on its own, the eaglet becomes an eagle and lives its life with a great deal of freedom. From there, it’s free to do whatever it wants and fly wherever it wants to fly. They appear to be free, which is why it’s also one of the biggest symbols of America, where they symbolize the fact that the USA became independent from the UK in 1776.

Other birds that symbolize freedom are the falcon and albatross.

2. Strength and Power

For the Celtic tribes, the bald eagle represented strength and power. And it’s easy to see why. When it flies high above the ground, it constantly scans the ground to find its next target. And when it finds one, it strikes – relentlessly and with power.

The bald eagle is the “leader” of all the winged creatures on earth. It’s an exemplary specimen for other creatures due to its strength and stamina. These animals are at the very top of the hierarchy when it comes to animals with wings (see also: wings symbolism).

As such, these characteristics have made the bald eagle a symbol of power – often used by various groups and even cultures that sought power. And sometimes, we even connect the bald eagle to political power.

Both for Native Americans and Celts, bald eagles represented strength and power. Native Americans revered these animals so much that they were considered sacred in their culture.

3. Leadership

The bald eagle is the leader among all birds. It’s the one species that we think about when we consider leadership. Along with some other rare species such as lions, bald eagles are hugely symbolic of leaders, which is why they often appear and appeared throughout the entire history in insignia of elites.

Even though they’re not the largest bird in the world – which is the ostrich – they have an aura about them that makes them leaders. Their ability to soar high and command from the sky also signals that they’re in control of their territory constantly.

4. Renewed Life

Because bald eagles are symbolic of the United States of America, they’re also a symbol of renewed life. This is exactly what the USA represented back in 1776 when it was first announced that they’re an independent country.

A land of promise, it quickly became a land of opportunities and thus, a whole new world to build, populate, and discover.

Another animal that symbolizes renewed life is the cardinal.

5. Vision

One of the most famous traits of eagles is their ability to see far into the distance, allowing them to spot their prey from miles above the ground. This gives them a strategic advantage that allows them to control their territory.

It’s also what makes them a symbol of vision. As a spirit animal, the bald eagle guides you to continue your life with a vision about your future, and with a sense of direction.

6. Courage

Another important meaning of the bald eagle is that it’s meant to give us a feeling of courage. They’re courageous themselves and rarely beaten by other species. So that makes them an important symbol of courage, which comes very handy if you have the bald eagle as your spirit animal.

Bald Eagle in Different Cultures

The bald eagle has some different meanings, depending on the culture they find themselves in.

USA

In the US, the bald eagle was one of the first figures and symbols when the founding fathers were deciding about what symbols would represent America. It’s because of its independence and sovereignty, but also because of its strength and power.

Also, the bald eagle has the ability to lead, which is what America strives for even today. However, not all of the historic figures were in favor of the bald eagle being the symbol of the US.

Benjamin Franklin, for example, wrote the following: “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; like those among Men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. The turkey is a much more respectable bird and withal a true, original native of America.”

On the other side, we’ve already mentioned how John F. Kennedy praised the bald eagle as a symbol of the United States.

Ultimately, the bald eagle is likely to stay a symbol of the US for a long time to come.

Native American

Before Europeans colonized North America, Native Americans also admired the bald eagle greatly. For them, the bald eagle was a symbol of sacredness, because they held this bird in high esteem and were not allowed to kill it.

Native Americans were deeply spiritual, and they often connected nature to themselves and found symbolic meanings in nature.

And with the bald eagle, that’s even more apparent.

They also connected this animal to other desirable qualities, such as strength, wisdom, and courage.

There’s another interesting symbolism we need to observe with Native Americans, and that is the symbolism of trustworthiness. To them, the bald eagle was a symbol of telling the truth, and holding an eagle’s feather was evidence that they were telling the truth.

Celts

Celts also liked to connect animals to symbolic meanings, and the bald eagle represented authority, security, strength, and dexterity.

Celts also respected the bald eagle for its courage and its ability to hunt down their prey. And while doing so, they admired its way of catching the prey with such a high level of success.

Bald Eagle Spirit Animal Meanings

If you have the bald eagle as your spirit animal, it can lead you to some very important discoveries about yourself.

  • When you’re facing a tough decision, the bald eagle can give you some inspiration and guidance about your path. That’s thanks to its high level of leadership as a spirit animal but also the ability to provide you with some guidance when you’re not sure about your life.
  • Be patient. The bald eagle will not come out easily out of its hiding spot, and it will only do so when it has to. This level of patience allows you to get the things you want in life that have been “avoiding” you for some time now.
  • The bald eagle also gives you some courage and strength when you need it, especially when you’re facing a tough time in your life. When you’re up against a deadline or when things get tough and you have to face your fears, the bald eagle supports you and encourages you to do them regardless of your feelings.
  • When you feel weighed down by your life and you lose sight of your goals and larger perspective, then the bald eagle can help you reclaim your goals and get the direction that you need to get back on track.

Final Thoughts

bald eagle symbolismThe bald eagle symbolism is integral in the creation of the United States of America. The founding fathers saw this animal as one of the leading symbols of the country, because of its high level of autonomy, freedom, independence, and strength.

Those qualities also provide you with ample opportunities if you’re seeking guidance in your life from the bald eagle as your spirit animal. It will help you rediscover your goals and give you guidance when you’re unsure about your decisions.

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