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.