Benjamin Franklin wanted the U.S. symbol to be a wild turkey who, he said, was intelligent and brave yet prudent (careful). Franklin thought the bald eagle had a “bad” character, since it was known to steal fish from people.
Basically, a bald eagle will eat just about everything and is opportunistic—in other words, it's a perfect symbol for the U.S.!
Enough Congressmen agreed that the bald eagle was chosen as the national bird and symbol on this day in 1782.
Learn about bald eagles at National Geographic Kids.
Defenders of Wildlife has some ideas of how to help protect bald eagles.