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Bald Eagle: A Mighty Symbol, With A Not-So-Mighty Voice

Jessica Robinson


Few sounds symbolize American patriotism like the piercing shrill of a bald eagle. But just like George Washington and his cherry tree, that majestic call … is a myth. The screech associated with the bald eagle, in fact, belongs to a different bird.

Bird expert Connie Stanger blames Hollywood. You know the scene:

Stanger describes it: “You’ve got John Wayne riding through the sunset and you hear the jingle of spurs and often that piercing, loud cry.”

It's a cry that’s synonymous with America’s national bird. But there’s a problem says Stanger, who works at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise. If you were to look up at the bird making that sound in real life you wouldn’t see a bald eagle.

“They dub over it with a red tailed hawk’s cry,” Stanger says.

And the reason? Well, take a listen to what the bald eagle actually sounds like …

“Unfortunately for the bald eagle, it has like a little cackling type of a laugh that’s not really very impressive for the bird,” Stanger explains.

Stanger says one other thing you might not know about the bird that symbolizes American strength -- most of the images you see are of the female of the species, which are bigger than the males.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

On the Web

Listen to the real bald eagle at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

… And the red-tailed hawk, who does the eagle’s Hollywood voice over: