What Bird Did Benjamin Franklin Suggest

Last Updated on June 6, 2023 by

Benjamin Franklin is a name that is synonymous with American history, science and politics. His remarkable contributions to these fields have been celebrated for centuries. However, his fascination with birds and their behavior has often gone unnoticed. Benjamin Franklin was an avid ornithologist who studied various bird species throughout his life. In fact, he even suggested a particular bird as the national symbol of America.

Franklin’s suggestion of a national bird came at a time when the United States was in its infancy and lacked many defining symbols. It was 1784, just after the Revolutionary War had ended, and there was much debate over what the new country should represent. Franklin believed that choosing a national bird would be an opportunity to celebrate nature while also creating an enduring icon for Americans to rally around. He put forward several suggestions but ultimately settled on one particular avian species which he felt best embodied the spirit of America.

Benjamin Franklin’s Love For Birds

Exploring Franklin’s Ornithological Works reveals a deep love for birds. The irony of this is that the man who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was one of America’s Founding Fathers, spent much time studying winged creatures. However, his interest in birds wasn’t just a hobby; it played an important role in shaping American identity.

Franklin first became interested in birds when he was only 12 years old. He would spend hours observing them and even started collecting their eggs. As he grew older, his fascination with avian life continued to grow, leading him to write extensively on the subject.

In fact, Franklin suggested that the Wild Turkey be adopted as the national bird instead of the Bald Eagle. In a letter to his daughter written in 1784, he compared turkeys favorably against eagles, stating they were "more respectable" and had better character traits than bald eagles. Although his suggestion was never officially implemented, it shows how deeply connected he felt birds were to American culture.

Through exploring Franklin’s ornithological works, we can see how crucial birds were in shaping American identity during its early days. His appreciation for these creatures highlighted their importance not only in nature but also within society. It reminds us that even something as small as a bird can have great significance and impact on our lives without us realizing it.

The Debate Over National Symbols

The debate over national symbols in the United States has been ongoing for centuries. One of the most significant discussions was about choosing a national bird, which Benjamin Franklin advocated for in 1784. He recommended the wild turkey as the national bird instead of the bald eagle because he believed that turkeys were more respectable and courageous birds. However, his suggestion did not gain much support at the time.

Despite this initial lack of enthusiasm, cultural significance is still attached to both birds today. The bald eagle became a symbol of American freedom and strength due to its impressive wingspan and majestic appearance. It appears on everything from coins to government documents. Meanwhile, turkeys are associated with Thanksgiving dinners and often appear in traditional holiday decorations across America.

Alternative suggestions for a national bird have also surfaced throughout history. For example, John James Audubon proposed the golden eagle as an alternative choice during debates in Congress in 1810. Additionally, several Native American tribes suggested their own sacred birds like the condor or red-tailed hawk as potential options.

Choosing a national bird may seem trivial at first glance; however, it holds political implications as well. Supporters of using eagles may argue that they represent American values while detractors might see them only as predators that feed off other animals’ carrion without doing any real work themselves. In contrast, supporters of using turkeys could point out how they represent hard-working farmers who helped build America’s agricultural industry.

Ultimately, selecting a national symbol such as a bird requires careful consideration of its cultural significance and political implications. While there will always be alternative suggestions and varying opinions on what best represents America’s values and ideals, one thing remains clear: whichever option is selected must unite rather than divide us as Americans.

Franklin’s Proposal For A National Bird

As the United States fought for its independence, Benjamin Franklin proposed a national bird to represent the new nation’s identity. He believed that this symbol would unite and inspire citizens to fight for their country’s future. In 1784, he suggested that the turkey be designated as the national bird of America.

Franklin saw the turkey as a noble creature with strong characteristics that represented resilience, courage, and strength. He admired how turkeys were native to North America and had adapted well to different environments. Furthermore, they provided sustenance to Americans during difficult times such as Thanksgiving Day celebrations. These attributes made them an ideal candidate for the role of representing American values.

Despite his admiration for turkeys, Franklin’s proposal was not successful in convincing Congress to adopt it as a national symbol. Instead, they chose the Bald Eagle because of its majestic appearance and reputation as a fierce predator. However, many people still recognize Franklin’s contribution to American history by acknowledging his influence on creating a sense of national identity through animal symbolism.

In conclusion, although Benjamin Franklin’s proposal did not ultimately succeed in making the turkey America’s national bird, his effort reflects his dedication towards forging a collective American identity through symbols that embody virtues like perseverance and integrity. Even today, discussions about what animals or objects best represent America continue among scholars and ordinary citizens alike – illustrating just how important these symbols are in shaping our shared cultural heritage.

The Importance Of Symbolism In Nation Building

Symbolism plays an important role in nation building, particularly in the creation of a national identity and unifying symbols. The use of symbolism can bring together a diverse population and create a sense of belonging to a greater community. National symbols such as flags, anthems, and mottos can represent the values and history of the country, and help to promote national pride and unity. In the United States, Benjamin Franklin famously suggested the wild turkey as the national symbol, however his suggestion was not followed.

National Identity

Exploring patriotism and establishing national identity are crucial components of building a nation. Symbolism plays a vital role in shaping the collective consciousness of citizens towards their country. One such example is Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion for the national bird, which holds great historical significance.

In 1784, Benjamin Franklin proposed that the Wild Turkey should be the national bird of America rather than the Bald Eagle. The turkey was native to North America and had been an important food source for Native Americans before Europeans arrived. However, his proposal was not accepted as many believed that the bald eagle symbolized strength, courage, and freedom – essential qualities required for a new nation.

Franklin’s proposition highlights how national symbols can spark debates about what values represent a country best. As symbolism has both cultural and political implications, it is often used as a tool by leaders to promote certain agendas or ideologies. This makes it crucial to understand the historical context surrounding these symbols to interpret their meaning accurately.

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While the Bald Eagle remains one of America’s most potent symbols today, Franklin’s advocacy for the Wild Turkey speaks volumes about American history and its relationship with nature. It also reflects on how different people perceive patriotism differently based on personal experiences and beliefs.

Overall, exploring patriotic symbols like birds helps us better understand our roots as well as shape our future course as a nation. National identity is never static but evolves continuously through shared experiences and narratives – all reflected through symbolic representations like flags, anthems, animals or landmarks – making them integral parts of nation-building processes worldwide.

Unifying Symbols

Symbolism plays a crucial role in shaping the collective consciousness of citizens towards their country. As explored earlier, national symbols can spark debates about what values represent a country best and are often used as tools by leaders to promote certain agendas or ideologies. However, it is equally important to recognize the unifying power that symbolism holds. Unifying symbols serve as rallying points for people from different backgrounds and beliefs to come together under one flag.

Historically, many countries have adopted unifying symbols that reflect their cultural significance and shared experiences. For example, India’s tri-color flag represents unity among its diverse population, with saffron symbolizing courage and sacrifice, white representing purity and peace, and green denoting growth and auspiciousness. Similarly, Japan’s rising sun motif on its flag represents hope for a bright future while also reflecting the nation’s imperial past.

Unifying symbols not only bring people together but also create a sense of belonging and pride in one’s country. They act as reminders of shared history and struggles fought collectively by previous generations so that we may enjoy our present freedoms. In times of distress or uncertainty, these symbols serve as beacons of hope that inspire resilience and perseverance.

In conclusion, understanding both the historical context and cultural significance surrounding national symbols is crucial in interpreting their meaning accurately. While some symbols may hold controversial meanings or evoke differing interpretations based on personal beliefs, unifying symbols provide an opportunity for all citizens to rally around common ideals. By embracing these symbols with reverence and respect, nations can further strengthen their sense of identity and purpose in today’s global society.

The Characteristics Of Franklin’s Chosen Bird

The importance of symbolism in nation building cannot be overstated. Leaders throughout history have used symbols to unite their people and reinforce national identity. Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers, famously suggested the turkey as a symbol for the new American nation. Despite its popularity at the time, however, it was ultimately rejected in favor of another bird.

Franklin believed that the turkey would make an excellent representative for the United States because it was native to North America and had unique physical characteristics. It was large, majestic-looking, and had beautiful plumage. Yet despite these impressive qualities, turkeys also exhibited some less-than-ideal behavioral traits. They were known to be somewhat clumsy and slow-witted creatures that were easily frightened by loud noises.

In contrast, the bald eagle eventually chosen as America’s national bird possessed many desirable attributes both physically and behaviorally. With its sharp talons and powerful wingspan, it was a fearsome predator capable of hunting prey much larger than itself. Additionally, eagles are highly intelligent animals with keen eyesight and strong family bonds.

Overall, while Benjamin Franklin may have been fond of the turkey as a potential symbol for America, his colleagues ultimately chose a more fitting representative in the bald eagle. Its physical appearance exudes strength and power while its behavioral traits reflect intelligence and loyalty – all attributes that Americans hold dear as part of their national identity.

The Significance Of The Bald Eagle In American Culture

The Bald Eagle, also known as Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is a bird of prey found in North America. It has been an important symbol in American culture since the founding of the United States. Benjamin Franklin suggested that the Wild Turkey should be the national bird instead of the Bald Eagle because he believed it was more respectable and intelligent.

Despite this suggestion, Congress chose to make the Bald Eagle the national bird in 1782. The eagle’s powerful presence and majestic appearance made it a perfect choice for representing strength and freedom. Furthermore, Native Americans have long revered the Bald Eagle for its spiritual significance.

However, by the mid-20th century, hunting and habitat destruction had significantly decreased their population. In 1967, Congress passed legislation protecting bald eagles from harm and harassment under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With conservation efforts over several decades, their numbers began to recover, leading to their removal from endangered species status in 2007.

Bald eagle conservation remains crucial today due to ongoing threats such as lead poisoning from ammunition and loss of habitat due to climate change. Nevertheless, they continue to inspire hope and patriotism through their symbolism in American culture while remaining sacred creatures in Native American traditions.

  • Three interesting facts about Bald Eagles:
  • They can see five times farther than humans.
  • Their nests are among the largest built by any bird species.
  • They mate for life unless one partner dies or fails to return during migration season.

Criticisms And Alternatives To Franklin’s Suggestion

Section: Criticisms and Alternatives to Franklin’s Suggestion

While Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion of the American turkey as the national bird has been widely popularized, it has also faced criticisms over time. One of the main arguments against his proposal is that turkeys lack the regal qualities associated with a national symbol. Critics claim that eagles reflect strength, freedom, and power more adequately than turkeys.

Alternative suggestions for America’s national bird have varied throughout history. In 1782, Congress adopted the bald eagle as its emblem, which became synonymous with American patriotism. However, even this choice was contested by some experts who believed that it was not a fitting portrayal of American values since bald eagles are scavengers and often steal food from other birds.

Another possible contender for national bird status could be the magnificent frigatebird or man-o’-war bird due to its wide wingspan and graceful aerial maneuvers reminiscent of fighter jets in flight. This species is known for being resilient and adaptable; traits that Americans could find appealing as their country continues to evolve into new eras.

In conclusion, while Benjamin Franklin’s idea of an American turkey as our nation’s symbol may seem unconventional today, it opened up discussions about what we value most as a society. Various alternative suggestions for our national bird have emerged throughout history, each reflecting different aspects of America’s unique character. Ultimately, no matter which bird is chosen – whether it be the majestic eagle or another avian species – let us remember that symbols can change over time but what remains constant is our shared identity as citizens of one great nation.

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Franklin’s Legacy In Ornithology And American History

Franklin’s contributions to ornithology research have had a significant impact on American history. He was an avid bird watcher and spent much of his time observing different species in the wild. Franklin believed that studying birds could provide valuable insights into the natural world, and he encouraged others to pursue this field of study.

One of Benjamin Franklin’s most notable achievements in ornithology research was suggesting that the Wild Turkey be named as America’s national bird instead of the Bald Eagle. In a letter written to his daughter, he described the turkey as "a much more respectable Bird" than the eagle, which he considered to be a symbol of "bad moral character." Although his suggestion was ultimately not adopted, it sparked an important conversation about the symbolism associated with national emblems.

In addition to promoting certain species over others, Franklin also made several other important contributions to ornithology research. He developed a system for classifying birds based on their physical characteristics and habits, which laid the groundwork for modern taxonomic classification systems. Furthermore, he conducted extensive studies on migration patterns and nesting behaviors among various species.

Today, Benjamin Franklin is widely regarded as one of America’s foremost amateur ornithologists. His legacy continues through ongoing efforts by researchers and enthusiasts alike to better understand these fascinating creatures and their place within our ecosystem.

  • Top 3 Interesting Facts About Birds Discovered Through Ornithology Research:

1) Some birds can fly at incredibly high altitudes – up to 30,000 feet or higher.
2) Certain species use tools to obtain food or build nests.
3) The oldest known bird fossil dates back approximately 150 million years.

Overall, Benjamin Franklin’s passion for birds helped shape our understanding of these incredible creatures. From developing new classification systems to advocating for certain species over others, his contributions continue to influence both scientific research and popular culture today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Other Animals Did Benjamin Franklin Suggest As National Symbols?

As a fervent supporter of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin suggested several animals to be used as national symbols that embody strength and courage. His criteria for selecting these creatures were based on their physical attributes, behaviors, and symbolic meanings. Among his other animal suggestions were the rattlesnake, wild turkey, and bald eagle. The rattlesnake was chosen due to its dangerous reputation and association with liberty; the turkey embodied resourcefulness and adaptability; while the eagle represented majesty and power. These proposed emblems reflect Franklin’s deep understanding of nature’s significance in shaping America’s identity and values.

Did Benjamin Franklin Have Any Personal Experiences With His Chosen Bird?

Benjamin Franklin, an avid bird watcher, suggested the bald eagle as a possible national symbol for America due to its majestic appearance and impressive hunting abilities. However, it is unclear if he had any personal experiences with the species himself. During Franklin’s time, the population of bald eagles in America was plentiful and they could be found across the continent. However, overhunting and habitat loss led to a decline in their numbers by the early 20th century. Despite this setback, conservation efforts have resulted in their recovery and today they continue to serve as a powerful representation of American strength and freedom.

How Did Native American Cultures View The Bald Eagle Before It Became An American Symbol?

The bald eagle has long been a symbol of American strength and freedom, but before it was adopted as such by the United States in 1782, Native American cultures viewed this bird with great significance. To many tribes throughout North America, the bald eagle represented power, wisdom, and spiritual enlightenment. They saw it as an intermediary between themselves and their creator, often incorporating its feathers into sacred rituals or using them to adorn ceremonial clothing. While some tribes believed that harming these birds would bring bad luck or negative consequences upon themselves, others hunted them for food and used all parts of the animal for various purposes. Despite its current association with American patriotism, the cultural importance of the bald eagle stretches back much further than any official national emblem could suggest.

Were There Any Other Proposed National Symbols That Were Debated During Franklin’s Time?

Debates over national symbols were not limited to just the bald eagle during Benjamin Franklin’s time. Historical context reveals that there were several proposed emblems that were discussed by founding fathers, including a rattlesnake and wild turkey. The rattlesnake was seen as a symbol of resistance and strength, while the turkey represented abundance and prosperity. However, despite these alternative options, it was ultimately decided that the bald eagle would serve as the emblem for the United States due to its majestic appearance and soaring abilities. Nevertheless, discussions over potential national symbols reflect the significance placed on American identity during this crucial period in history.

How Did Benjamin Franklin’s Suggestion Affect The Popularity And Conservation Of The Bald Eagle In The United States?

The impact of Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion to make the turkey the national bird was ultimately overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the choice of a national symbol. As a freelance writer, it is important to note that while some may argue that his suggestion could have positively affected the popularity and conservation efforts of bald eagles, there is no concrete evidence to support this claim. Instead, what remains clear is that Americans were deeply divided over which animal should represent their nation – with many advocating for more powerful or majestic creatures like lions or panthers instead. Ultimately, despite its initial buzz in political circles, Franklin’s proposal failed to gain much traction among American citizens at large and has been largely relegated to historical footnotes.


Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father of the United States, suggested that the bald eagle become America’s national symbol. However, he also proposed other animals such as the rattlesnake and wild turkey. Although Franklin did not have any personal experiences with the bald eagle, he believed it represented strength, freedom, and independence.

Before becoming an American symbol, Native American cultures viewed the bald eagle as sacred and often incorporated its feathers into their rituals and ceremonies. Despite debates over other potential national symbols during Franklin’s time, his suggestion ultimately led to widespread popularity and conservation efforts for the bald eagle in the United States.

In conclusion, Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion of the bald eagle as America’s national symbol has endured for centuries. Like a soaring bird with outstretched wings, this majestic creature represents powerful ideals that continue to inspire Americans today. Its image can be found on everything from currency to government buildings, reminding us of our nation’s history and values.

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