Friday, July 29, 2011

The Immortal Jellyfish

It seems like stories of people searching for the fountain of youth have been around forever, and as far as animals go there are certainly plenty with much longer life spans than humans. Koi fish have been known to live over 200 years, at least one Aldabra giant tortoise lived to be 255, and a giant barrel sponge in the Caribbean is estimated to be more than 2,300 years old. However, there may be one animal that is indeed impervious to Father Time; Turritopsis nutricula, the immortal jellyfish.
Photo: Peter Schuchert
All jellyfish go through several life cycles. There are born as larvae that settle onto the sea floor or other underwater structure and develop into polyps, which look similar to a tiny octopus with its tentacles pointed up. The jellyfish buds from this polyp and begins its adult life, feeding constantly and growing quite rapidly. After reaching adult size the jellyfish will spawn, usually dying a short time after. The largest jellyfish live 2-6 months, with smaller varieties only living a matter of weeks.

So, how does the tiny (0.18”) immortal jellyfish manage to live on? The answer is a process called transdifferentiation. After the immortal jellyfish spawns as an adult, it uses this process to transform its cells back into that of an immature polyp, dropping to the sea floor and starting its lifecycle all over again. Some animals such as salamanders can use this process to re-grow limbs, but the immortal jellyfish is the only known animal that can apply transdifferentiation to its whole body, meaning that instead of dying, it becomes a newborn again; and it can repeat this process over and over.

Because these jellyfish are immortal, their population is exploding. Once native only to Caribbean waters, they can now be found in oceans all over the world.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Cooper's Hawk - Avian Ninja

The Cooper’s hawk is one of the most common hawks in the United States, yet I’m willing to bet most people have never seen one in person in the wild. Unlike other common birds of prey such as red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks prefer dense woods and are brown/grey in color, giving them a sort of natural camouflage. Their coloring, dense habitat and stealthy hunting style may make them the ultimate ninja of the bird world.
Cooper’s hawks are avivores, meaning they feed primarily on other birds. They hunt by quietly gliding near the edge of the woods looking for a meal, then swooping in to surprise their prey. The prey bird (robins and pheasants are a favorite) will naturally attempt to evade the predator, but cannot escape from the much faster Cooper’s hawk, which can fly at incredible speeds through dense woods just inches away from trees and branches. That’s not to say that this hunting style isn’t dangerous for the hawk. Cooper’s hawks can and do injure themselves by flying into trees during these pursuits, often resulting in broken bones.

The most likely place to see a Cooper’s hawk is in your own backyard, especially if you have a birdfeeder. Heavily wooded suburbs have become an ideal second habitat for Cooper’s hawks, as large populations of backyard songbirds make for easy meals. If you do happen to see a Cooper’s hawk perched in your backyard close to the birdfeeder, you can be sure that he’s not after birdseed!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Purple Martins: When Nature Depends on Us

If you’ve ever seen a large multi-room birdhouse on top of a tall pole, chances are it’s a purple martin house. Long before European settlement, Native Americans began hanging hollowed-out gourds to provide housing for these birds and centuries later the martins have come to depend on man-made structures for a place to live.

Purple martins on a nesting box.
The benefits of having martins around are numerous. First off, they are insectivores and can help significantly reduce the flying insect population around a residence (however, they do not eat mosquitoes as some martin housing manufacturers’ claim). The presence of martins also seems to keep crows away, which is a positive for farmers. Prior to the industrial age, purple martins may have even functioned as alarm clocks, as they usually make their presence known at a fairly early hour.

These days martins are simply loved because they depend on us. Although martins in the western United States do still nest in natural cavities, thousands of years of cohabitation with humans in the east have conditioned the species to require artificial housing for their survival.

But before you decide you want to become a martin colony “landlord”, understand that it’s not as easy as simply putting up a birdhouse. In order for a purple martin colony to nest on your property the house must have specific dimensions and be surrounded with plenty of open space. You also will have to commit to doing regular nest checks to keep the house free of predators and invasive species such as common starlings. It may sound like a lot of work, but if you provide a good home for your martins the same colony will return to the house each spring for many years to come.

Purple martin colony with an uninvited visitor
For information on how to attract and house purple martins please visit the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

For more animal facts click here!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Chinese Giant Salamander

Salamanders are fairly common amphibians that can be found in and around wetlands throughout most of the world. They are known for the wide variety of colors they can come in and well as their fascinating ability to re-grow limbs in just a few weeks. Most salamanders are less than six inches long, but there is one species of this amphibian that is truly deserving of its “giant” title. The Chinese giant salamander can reach an astonishing six feet in length and weigh up to 140lbs!

Photo: Paul Bachhausen
The Chinese giant salamander is a purely aquatic amphibian that exists only in rocky streams and mountain lakes in China. Most are around four feet in length and weigh about 50lbs. Being as it is virtually blind, the Chinese giant salamander depends upon nodes that run along its body to detect vibrations in the water, using these ultra-sensitive nodes for navigation and to hunt the frogs, insects and fish it feeds on.

Chinese giant salamanders can live more than 30 years, but they are currently critically endangered. Habitat loss and overpopulation have led to severe population declines along with the fact that these salamanders are considered a delicacy in China and are hunted for food. Currently, conservation groups are attempting to establish protected habitats and enact captive breeding programs for the Chinese giant salamander before it becomes extinct in the wild.

For more information on Chinese giant salamander conservation efforts click here.

For more Jungle Store animal facts click here!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meet the Real Roadrunner

Due to the popular cartoon, the roadrunner is a bird we’re all at least vaguely familiar with. In the cartoon the roadrunner uses his superior speed to escape the ever-resourceful but hapless Wile. E. Coyote with hilarious results. However the real bird is an animal that is relatively unknown outside of the American southwest and Mexico.

Greater Roadrunner
There are two extant roadrunner species; the greater roadrunner of the southwestern United States and the lesser roadrunner of Mexico and Central America. Both are similar in appearance with the lesser roadrunner being smaller in size with a shorter bill. Most are between 18 and 24 inches long, with a large portion of their bodies made up of their long tails. Roadrunners are actually members of the cuckoo family, and although primarily a ground-dwelling bird are capable of flight.

These birds get their name from their habit of running in front of cars and suddenly darting off into the scrub. Although they are the fastest runners of any flying bird, they’re really not that quick. The greater roadrunner can only reach a top speed of 26mph. Compare this with the 43mph sprint speed of a coyote and it’s obvious that cartoon logic just doesn’t hold up.

Roadrunners hunt for insects and lizards by foraging on the ground or by leaping to catch them in the air. Their main predators are hawks, falcons and domestic cats. Although not as common, coyotes (sans Acme Earthquake Pills) do hunt roadrunners on occasion. In recent years the greater roadrunner has expanded its range north and east into the southern American plains. As is often the case with common animals, urban sprawl and higher road traffic is the number one danger facing the roadrunner.

Friday, July 22, 2011

All-Terrain Tortoise

A report from the Associated Press caught my eye this morning. This past spring a resident of Lewiston, Idaho brought their African tortoise to Washington State University’s veterinary hospital due to a severely injured leg which unfortunately had to be amputated. Veterinarians wanted to make sure the tortoise would still be able to be mobile after the surgery, and they came up with a rather interesting solution.

Photo: AP/Henry Moore, Jr.
 Rather than an expensive prosthetic, the 23 pound tortoise named Gamera received a $7 office caster purchased at Ace Hardware. According to surgeons, the caster wheel, which is attached to the shell with epoxy, gives the animal its best chance for a long and healthy life. He appears to be recovering well and has taken to being referred to as the “all-terrain-tortoise”.
Photo: AP/Nicholas K. Geranios

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Real Wolverine

Other than being a popular comic book superhero, the wolverine may be one of the more misunderstood animals in the world. After all, it’s name seems to imply that it is some sort of wolf, whereas it roughly resembles a small bear in appearance. Actually, the wolverine is a member of the mustelidae, or weasel family. However, this tenacious animal is nothing like a pet ferret.
Wolverines are about the size of a medium dog but with a shorter snout and stockier body. They have an oily, insulated coat that is resistant to frost in the cold, far-northern climate they inhabit. Wolverines are carnivores and hunt just about any form of wildlife in their territory. Extremely tenacious and resourceful, wolverines will also attempt to steal kills from larger predators such as grizzly bears and will eat carrion when it is available.

It’s not known exactly how many wolverines there are in the wild. Much like the comic book character, wolverines are solitary animals and prefer stay very far apart from one another; males have ranges that can exceed 240 square miles and do not overlap one another. It is estimated that the vast majority of the population is in Canada with occasional sightings in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. Other large populations exist in northern Europe and Asia, but have been in decline due to fur trapping. Though these independent little predators are rarely seen, they represent an important part of northern ecosystems.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Llamas and Donkeys, the Guard Dog Alternatives

For as long as people have been breeding and keeping livestock, protection of the herd has always been an issue. Domesticated animals don’t usually have the instincts to avoid predation and they are often at risk of being killed by coyotes, wolves, big cats and wild dogs while grazing in the open. Since long before the invention of firearms, ranchers and shepherds have used guard dogs to protect their herds. Always vigilant, these dogs keep a watchful eye for unwelcome visitors and will place themselves between the hunter and the herd to protect it.

As effective a guard dogs are, there are some other unlikely choices you may not be aware of.

Guard Llama - Photo by Paul Keleher
 Llamas have proven to be very effective at guarding sheep. They are naturally alert and can be very territorial. If an intruder approaches, the llama can make a variety of loud calls and will herd the animals it is watching over into a small group, placing itself in between them and intruder. Llamas will chase and kick those who get to close and have even been known to kill coyotes and dogs to protect the herd. They are fairly low maintenance animals and usually work best alone. The below video shows a guard llama with its herd of goats and sheep.
Donkeys are another popular choice as a guard animal as they are naturally wary of strangers and harbor a strong dislike of predatory animals, even domestic dogs. Donkeys have fantastic hearing and good eyesight as well as a loud bay that can be used to warn the herd. Like llamas, guard donkeys can and will attack threats if necessary. The video below shows a guard donkey attacking a ranch fence when strangers approach in a car. It may seem funny, but these donkeys take their jobs pretty seriously!
According to an Iowa State University study, the use of these unconventional guard animals is extremely effective, in some cases reducing predatory losses to only 7% of the herd.

While wildlife lovers will always view coyotes and dingoes as rightful residents of their habitats, to ranchers they represent a significant problem as pests. Using effective guard animals such as llamas and donkeys allows ranchers to protect their herds from predators without resorting to killing the predators, which seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel

In most parts of the world squirrels are an extremely common sight. In the United States it’s hard to spend any time in the backyard without catching a glimpse of an American red or grey squirrel scurrying up a tree or foraging for food in the grass. However, there is at least one species of squirrel that is extremely rare indeed, and wildlife officials are taking drastic measures to ensure its survival.

Mount Graham Red Squirrel
The Mount Graham red squirrel is native only to the PinaleƱo Mountains in southeastern Arizona and is named after the mountain range’s highest point. These tiny mountain-dwellers are only about eight inches long and weigh a half pound. They were once thought to be extinct, but now exist as an endangered species in very limited numbers. According to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish there are only about 200 Mount Graham red squirrels left.

Arizona has recently experienced a lot of wildfires, leading some to fear that the entire remaining Mount Graham red squirrel population could be wiped out if fires affected their habitat. In response to this danger, Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO is reporting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has teamed up with the Phoenix Zoo to trap four of these squirrels and transport them to a temporary habitat at the zoo’s conservation center. That way, should the worst happen the four protected squirrels would hopefully be able to ensure the survival of the species.

For more information about the conservation of the Mount Graham red squirrel, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a .pdf file that can be downloaded here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Komodo Dragon: World's Biggest Lizard

For such a rare animal, the Komodo dragon is quite well recognized. Also called the island monitor, the Komodo Dragon can grow to nearly 10 feet long and weigh up to 150lbs, making it the world’s largest living lizard.
Photo: Midori
The reason the Komodo dragon grows so large has been attributed to its island habitat. Komodo dragons can only be found on the Indonesian islands of Gili Motang, Gili Dasami, Rinca, Flores, and of course Komodo. Unlike mainland ecosystems, these islands have no large, native predatory mammals and it is believed that the Komodo dragon evolved into its large stature as a way to fill this niche.

Komodo dragons are carnivores and mainly eat carrion; however they can and do hunt many varieties of animals up to the size of deer and goats. Komodo dragons eat up to 80% of their body weight at a time and have very slow metabolisms. Because of this, they can survive on as little as 12 meals per year; imagine eating just once a month!
Sleeping after a large meal.
Komodo dragons can live up to 30 years, but natural disasters, tourism, habitat loss and poaching of the animals they prey upon has led to a decline in their populations. It is estimated that there are fewer than 5000 Komodo dragons left in the wild, with only about 350 breeding females remaining.

For more animal information, be sure to visit our Animal Facts and Information page!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spare Polar Bear Needed

With all of the news stories about animals in need of homes, it seems strange to hear about a facility with space that needs filling. The Toronto Star reports that the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat in northern Ontario has closed indefinitely due to the fact that they simply cannot find a polar bear. The habitat’s two most recent occupants, Bisitek and Nanook, both passed away recently from complications due to old age. Nanook died this past March at the near-record age of 30, leaving the habitat vacant for the first time.

The facility, which opened in 2004, is unique in that it has a wading pool where visitors can actually swim with the polar bears, separated by only a sheet of bulletproof glass.

Aurora, a former temporary resident, swims up to the glass.
Photo via the Toronto Star courtesy of the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat.
Due to the severe economic impact a permanent closing of the state-of-the-art habitat could have on the small community, city officials are actively seeking another polar bear in need of a home. Bisitek and Nanook were both former zoo residents who came to the Cochrane habitat to live out their golden years, while other bears have been housed there on loan from the Toronto Zoo for short periods of time.

Polar bears are threatened in the wild, so obviously any potential resident would have to be captive-born or unable to be released into the wild. City officials are hopeful that a two year old cub born in a Quebec zoo may be on his way to Cochrane in the fall, but nothing has been made official.

More about the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Interesting Dog Breeds: The Pharaoh Hound

The pharaoh hound is thought to be one of the oldest dog breeds on the planet, and some believe its ancestry can be traced back as far as 6000 years ago in ancient Egypt. While this regal hound does bear a striking resemblance to the dogs depicted in ancient Egyptian sculptures and drawings, it truly gained popularity in the Mediterranean nation of Malta, where it is believed the dog was introduced by Phoenician traders in ancient times. Known as kelb-tal fenek, which means “rabbit dog” in Maltese, the pharaoh hound flourished in this island nation as a hunting companion and was first imported to England and later the United States in the latter half of the 20th century.

Photo: Pleple2000

Pharaoh hounds resemble greyhounds in build, and are extremely fast, graceful dogs. However, they have an even temperament and are very loving towards their owners if trained well. They can be quite reserved towards strangers, so this is one dog that won’t jump all over your company! Pharaoh hounds are medium-sized dogs, usually growing to about two feet tall and weighing 45-55lbs. Typical of sight hounds such as whippets and greyhounds, the pharaoh should never be allowed off-leash unless in an enclosed area, as they will chase rabbits and other small animals regardless of commands.

Rabbit Hunting.
Photo: Jan Eduard

Perhaps one of the most endearing and unique traits of the pharaoh hound is that it will “blush” when excited, with its nose and ears turning a darker shade of red. In other words, they’re like canine mood rings!
Photo: Jan Eduard

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The World's Largest Flying Animals

If you’ve ever been to the airport and have seen or taken a trip in a jumbo jet, it can seem amazing that these planes can even get off the ground. Weighing as much as half a million pounds, it takes massive amounts of thrust to get these behemoths into the air. Nature has provided its own flying giants throughout history, and here are a few of the largest.

Wandering Albatross. Photo: Mila Zinkova
The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird. When fully extended its wings can stretch an amazing 12 feet and some birds have reportedly been spotted with 17 foot wingspans, though this is unverified. Although they weigh nearly 30 pounds, the wandering albatross can soar for several hours on a single wing beat.

Argentavis magnificens illustration by Stanton F. Fink
 As large as the wandering albatross is, it is dwarfed by the largest known bird of all time, Argentavis magnificens. Also called the Giant Teratorn, Argentavis lived during the late Miocene period about six million years ago and had an estimated wingspan of 23 feet! Though little is known about the behavior of this ancient bird, paleontologists estimate that it weighed over 150lbs and was most likely a scavenger; perhaps a distant relative to today’s giant vultures.

Illustration of Quetzalcoatlus by Mark Witton & Darren Naish
 Long before these giant birds ever took to the sky a pterosaur called Quetzalcoatlus that existed during the late cretaceous period set the record (as far as we know) for the largest flying animal ever. Though scientists have not come to complete agreement on the dinosaur’s exact wingspan, estimates from fossils collected have it between 33 and 52 feet; larger than many planes. Quetzalcoatlus had an extremely long neck and when standing on the ground could easily look eye-to-eye with a giraffe. Though it is unproven, it is estimated by some that Quetzalcoatlus could fly at 80 mile per hour for up to 10 days at a time!

Quetzalcoatlus Skeleton

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Fishing Cat

If you’re a cat owner you probably know that most of our domestic felines aren’t too fond of getting wet, and it’s likely that you’ve accumulated your fair share of scratches and bite marks from the joy that is “bath-time”. However there is one cat that not only doesn’t mind the water, but spends most of its time in and around it; the fishing cat.

Fishing cats live in Southeast Asia in the countries of Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and parts of India. Though they may look similar to a domestic house cat, they’re about double the size and can weigh up to 35lbs. Their name comes from how they hunt. Fishing cats will stand in and around streams and marshes and draw their paws across the water imitating the movements of insects to attract fish, swiping their meal out of the water. They’re excellent swimmers too; they have webbed feet and can almost completely close up their tiny ears when under water.

While they may look cute, fishing cats are very much wild animals and not all that closely related to domestic cats. Like so many other animals that depend on wetlands, habitat loss due to human encroachment has hurt the fishing cat, and it is an endangered species.

Below is a video showing fishing cat kittens learning to hunt at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Donna the Hippo Turns 60

This past weekend the Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden in Evansville, Indiana celebrated quite a milestone by wishing a happy birthday to Donna the hippopotamus, who turns 60 this year.

Photo: Erin McCracken
 Donna has been at the Evansville Zoo since 1956 and is the oldest living Nile hippo in captivity. The second oldest Nile hippo is Donna’s sister Julie, who lives at the Memphis Zoo and will turn 50 this year.

Although Donna’s actual birthday isn’t until August 7th, the zoo always celebrates her birthday in July. As part of the celebration, patrons could share in a birthday cake, and Donna was given watermelons and fruit popsicles as special treats. Zookeepers attribute Donna’s long life to her easygoing personality.

Story via the Evansville Courier & Press

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Salute to Space Animals

As you’re probably aware, the Space Shuttle Atlantis made its final launch today, marking an end to the shuttle program and the start of an open-ended hiatus for manned American space flight. As commonplace as shuttle missions now seem, it’s important to remember how many animals blasted off into the unknown and in many cases gave their lives to help advance space programs throughout the world.

Baker, the first monkey to survive space flight.
 The first animals launched into space were fruit flies aboard a United States V2 rocket in 1947 to explore high-altitude radiation exposure, followed just a few years later by a rhesus monkey named Albert II in 1949.

Laika, the first dog to enter orbit.
In 1957, a Russian dog named Laika became the first animal to enter orbit aboard Sputnik 2. Unfortunately, at the time the technology to reenter the atmosphere from orbit did not yet exist, and Laika was unable to survive the mission. She is memorialized by a statue and plaque at the Russian Star City cosmonaut training facility and her likeness has appeared on postage stamps. In 1960, two other Russian dogs named Belka and Strelka became the first animals to enter orbit and return alive on Sputnik 5.

Ham the chimp upon recovery from his mission in 1961.
In 1961, chimpanzees entered the space program when Ham the chimp was launched into space as part of the U.S. Mercury-Redstone 2 mission. Ham was trained to pull levers in flight to receive food, proving that it was possible to perform tasks in space. Later that same year another chimp named Enos became the first chimpanzee to enter orbit.

With manned spaceflight becoming possible in the 1960s, animals became less common on missions. However in the decades since, hundreds of animals from tortoises to mice have taken part in missions as part of scientific studies. Even as recently as May, 2011 spiders were taken into orbit on the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavor to study the effects of zero gravity on their behavior.

Space Shuttle Endeavour
 Although the future of space exploration is uncertain, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the brave animals that have helped advance technology and our understanding of the universe.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

One Big Wombat

The wombat is a small marsupial native to Australia and New Zealand. These herbivores live in burrows and are primarily nocturnal, so they are not commonly seen; however, a wombat skeleton recently unearthed in northern Australia proves that they may have not been so small a million years ago.

Common Wombat - Photo: JJ Harrison
Modern wombats are about three feet long and weigh 40-70lbs. The skeleton that was dug up, called diprotodon, indicates an ancient wombat relative that was over six feet tall and 11 feet long, weighing as much as 6000lbs. The fossil represents the most complete diprotodon skeleton ever found, and may offer paleontologists further insight as to why these large animals went extinct.

Source: Discovery News

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Monkey Takes Self-Portrait

In a report filed by The Telegraph, photographer David Slater got a little extra help from a crested black macaque on a recent trip to Indonesia. After setting up his camera equipment to photograph the monkeys, Slater turned away momentarily only to discover one of the macaques had swiped the camera and was taking photos of his own.

Photo: David Slater

Photo: David Slater
 Slater states that the monkey took hundreds of photographs, but only a few were in focus. He believes the macaque was attracted to the camera first by the reflection in the lens and then by the sound of the shutter.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Fox-Eagle Connection

Island foxes, found only on California’s Channel Islands are among the rarest foxes remaining on earth. At less than 20 inches long and only about six inches tall, they are significantly smaller than most foxes, and have developed and evolved in an almost completely geographically isolated island environment. Each of the Channel Islands plays host to a slightly different species of island fox, and populations of many had dwindled to less than 20 animals by the late 1990s.
Island Fox
So what was the cause of this sharp decline? Surprisingly, human population growth and loss of habitat are not completely to blame in this situation, as the majority of the Channel Islands are protected land. Rather, biologists point to a shift in eagle populations. Bald eagles were once native to the Channel Islands, but in the 1960s their populations were decimated due to use of the pesticide DDT. With the bald eagle gone, smaller golden eagles began nesting on the Channel Islands; and whereas the bald eagles eat fish, golden eagles prey upon mammals.
Golden Eagle
The golden eagle presence seemed to have little effect on island fox populations for nearly 30 years. Then in the early 1990s the National Park Service exterminated the nonnative feral pigs that had been introduced to the islands, eliminating the golden eagle’s primary food source. Due to their isolation and lack of any natural predators, the island fox was not equipped to being preyed upon, and because of this were nearly driven to extinction.

Conservationists are taking a multi-pronged approach to protecting the island fox. They are making attempts to capture and relocate golden eagles and other nonnative species to the mainland, and are no longer allowing visitors to bring pets to national parks on the islands, as island foxes are susceptible to diseases from domestic dogs. Finally, attempts are being made to reintroduce bald eagles to the Channel Islands, as a healthy bald eagle population would prevent the return of golden eagles. These steps combined with captive breeding programs will hopefully allow this rare species to continue on.
Island Foxes in Captivity

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Turkey - Almost A National Symbol

There is perhaps no greater symbol of our country than its national bird, the bald eagle. With its regal appearance it’s easy to see why the bald eagle was chosen by congress to represent America rather than the  wild turkey that Benjamin Franklin was campaigning for. In a well-known letter he wrote to his daughter in 1784, Franklin made his feelings about the national bird known.

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country...

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

We can gather from his letter that Mr. Franklin was not too big a fan of the bald eagle. But in the end, congress got their way; the bald eagle received national symbol status and the turkey got...Thanksgiving.