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The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States of America. It is one of the country’s most recognizable symbols, and appears on most of its official seals, including the Seal of the President of the United States.
The Continental Congress adopted the current design for the Great Seal of the United States including a Bald Eagle grasping thirteen arrows and a thirteen-leaf olive branch with its talons on June 20, 1782.
After the end of the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin wrote a famous letter from Paris in 1784, to his daughter, criticizing the choice and suggesting the Wild Turkey as a better representative of American qualities. He described the Bald Eagle as "a Bird of bad moral character," who, "too lazy to fish for himself" survived by robbing the Osprey. He called the Bald Eagle "a rank Coward" easily driven from a perch by the much smaller kingbird. In the letter, Franklin wrote the Turkey is, "a much more respectable Bird," which he described as "a little vain & silly [but] a Bird of Courage."
The Bald Eagle remained the emblem of the United States. It can be found on both national seals and on the back of several coins (including the quarter dollar coin until 1999), with its head oriented towards the olive branch. Between 1916 and 1945, the Presidential Flag showed an eagle facing to its left (the viewer’s right), which gave rise to the urban legend that the seal is changed to have the eagle face towards the olive branch in peace, and towards the arrows in wartime.