That eagle’s not bald.

It’s not a chrome-dome. It doesn’t have a comb-over. It doesn’t have a thinning patch, receding hairline or bald spot. Get rid of the word “bald” altogether.

How did our Bald Eagles get such a stupid name? The science nerds who care about arcane things like bird taxonomy, and are picky about picking names, have blown it.

These guys changed the Baltimore Oriole to the Northern Oriole. Okay, they’ve got reasons. They changed the Marsh Hawk to the Northern Harrier even though Northern Harriers can live in Florida.

They changed the Rufous-sided Towhee, the Myrtle Warbler, and others. We’re not going to reopen that can. Two-fisted fans of this site have encountered similar rants. We’ll move on.

But the eagle thing is just plain wrong.

I was at Yellowstone Lake a while back on a bright, cold, clean morning with mountains in the distance, wild forest in the background. Inland pelicans and the promise of bears. A cool moment.

Very American. Purple mountains and all that. You could use it for a travel poster. Europeans would drop their tiny coffee cups and head for the airport. Yellowstone!

As though on cue, while I was thinking these American thoughts, a Bald Eagle flew by, low and slow. A great American moment. His thick, white head feathers lifted in the breeze and ruffled as he flew. That eagle wasn’t bald.

Call it the white-headed eagle if you want. Call it the snow-capped eagle, I don’t care. Yeah, I know, the word “bald” has linguistic derivations that go beyond the common meaning today by which someone like, say, George Costanza or Terry Bradshaw might be described.

It’s from “balled” in old or middle English and meant white and shiny. Well, balled has meant other things in my neighborhood. But all this is beside the point. The eagle I saw wasn’t bald. No Bald Eagle is bald. Its name’s a bald-faced lie.

Somebody oughta tell a taxonomist.

Footnote and afterthought: By the way, “taxonomist” is not such a hot word either. It means “classifier of biological names.” But there are plenty of yo-yos around who think it means taxidermist. Which is a guy who stuffs dead animals, puts plastic eyes in their heads and makes them into creepy displays. Or trophies. Or both.

2 Responses to “That eagle’s not bald.”

  1. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    Great shot, Keith; that is one mean looking two-fisted eagle. Hey, even that would make a better name for this bird, the “Two-Fisted Eagle.” The bird-namers can have that one if they want. Not perfect, but still better than “bald.”

  2. Keith says:

    Here is a photo of a “Bald” Eagle I took at my office in Long Beach, Washington.