Davis...makes clear in his rollicking, poetic, wise new book that cultural and political history are an integral part of this natural history, not to be omitted if we want to tell the whole story ... Along with the famous humans, Davis never neglects the birds themselves ... Davis shines at most everything in this exuberantly expansive book, but especially at highlighting individual birds like the translocated ones making their way in the world. With eagle numbers now estimated at levels they were before 'America became America,' their comeback is astonishing.
Davis’s most surprising contribution is to show how adulation of the natural world can accelerate its destruction. We came very close to loving the bald eagle to death ... That we didn’t...is the source of the book’s bouncy optimism. The Bald Eagle is the rare natural history that plays as a comedy. It’s a dark comedy, however, because its lessons are not easily transferable to our broader, ongoing ecological catastrophe ... The Bald Eagle is a shaggy dog. It proceeds by the principles of accretion, with no eagle fact, or eagle-adjacent fact, left behind ... From the trivia, however, emerges a moving portrait of a species victimized for its own evolutionary successes ... Davis makes the subtle but persuasive point that the ubiquity of eagles in American culture...made individual animals seem expendable.
... an impressive work of scholarship by Mr. Davis ... The notes alone run to 20 pages of small type. Mr. Davis succeeds in making the history of the bird accessible to general readers ... At the same time, there are parts of it that read like a textbook. The 30-page chapter on how the eagle made it onto the national seal—a process that involved three congressional committees, nine delegates, three artists and a consultant —provides more detail than you may want. The same goes for the chapter on the history of the bald in early science. But if you have any questions about our national bird, Mr. Davis’s The Bald Eagle is a great place to look for answers.
Davis is a superb natural historian with a lyrical feel for the eagle's world—its quirks, its habits and its extraordinary survival skills. He sketches vivid portraits of the artists, scientists and eagle-loving eccentrics who thought nothing of perching in a tree for weeks to document eagle life. These character sketches do overstuff the narrative, which might have been better served by focusing on fewer outsized personalities. Still, this is an extraordinary and fundamentally optimistic story, and it sends a message we need to hear, as we face the formidable environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Gliding on prose as majestic as his subject, Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental historian Jack E. Davis conveys the breathtaking splendor of the most famous American bird in The Bald Eagle ... [a] rich cultural and natural history ... swoops and soars in a dazzling display of writing, evoking the bald eagle’s majesty as it explores the eagle’s place in American history and legend, as well as its role in cultivating a robust environmental movement.
The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird is a feel-good story. That is, once you’re done feeling pretty darn awful about the way Americans treated these living symbols of national greatness throughout much of the country’s past ... [an] engaging and highly detailed cultural and natural history of the unofficial national bird ... Davis deftly brings alive the bald eagle as a real animal, separate from both the myths of its rapaciousness and the symbolic majesty that at times has made the birds emblems for organizations ranging from the National Rifle Association to the National Wildlife Foundation ... The Bald Eagle does bog down in stretches, mainly because Davis never met an eagle fact he didn’t like. Sometimes the minutiae, especially the extended account early in the book describing the origins and evolution of the bald eagle’s depiction on the Great Seal of the United States, slows the story down. More successful is Davis’ moving depiction of the toll that the pesticide DDT took on bald eagles at a time when the birds had finally transcended the numerous myths that nearly doomed them.
Though the organization of the book is puzzling, The Bald Eagle is compelling and paints a dignified portrait of the famous bird, within and outside of American culture. The author’s occasional playful tone lightens the mood during its darker moments and even helps to underline the hypocrisy of the treatment of this bird of prey, simultaneously esteemed and maligned ... Although the book is more cultural history than natural history, the bald eagle and its impressive abilities are highlighted. This is a history that turns the tables on Americans; the creature that embodied the scrappiness of the early nation is now a model of resilience we can only hope to emulate.
[A] sweeping history of America’s unofficial symbolic bird. Combining natural, political, and cultural histories, Davis offers a wealth of surprising information and demolishes popular misconception ... Well-timed humor...keeps things moving, and his writing is vivid ... This account soars.
A majestic history ... [A] sweeping cultural and natural history ... The author’s consistently lively, captivating narrative celebrates the naturalists, scientists, activists, artists...politicians, and breeders who have championed the extraordinary 'charismatic raptor' ... A rousing tale of a species’ survival.