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22 Things You Might Not Know About the Stanley Cup

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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Interesting facts and crazy stories about the trophy—which is older than the National Hockey League.

1. Who is Stanley, and what’s his cup?

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The Stanley Cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, the 1892 Governor General of Canada. He purchased the decorative cup in London for 10 guineas (around $50 at the time). Stanley donated the Cup to award Canada’s top amateur hockey club after he and his family became infatuated with the sport at Montreal’s 1889 Winter Carnival; it was first awarded to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (or MAAA) in 1893.

2. There are actually three Stanley Cups.

the stanley cup
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Stanley’s original Cup from 1892, known as the “Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup" (above), was awarded until 1970, and is now on display in the Vault Room at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

In 1963, NHL president Clarence Campbell believed that the original Cup had become too brittle to give to championship teams, so the “Presentation Cup” was created and is the well-known trophy awarded today. (Skeptics can authenticate the Presentation Cup by noting the Hockey Hall of Fame seal on the bottom.)

The final Cup is a replica of the Presentation Cup, which was created in 1993 by Montreal silversmith Louise St. Jacques and is used as a stand-in at the Hall of Fame when the Presentation Cup isn’t available.

3. But it’s one of a kind.

Unlike other major league sports trophies, a new Cup isn’t made every year. Instead, after each championship, the names of the players, coaches, management, and staff of the winning team are added to the Cup. The first team to have its roster engraved was the 1906-07 Montreal Wanderers, whose names were etched within the inner bowl of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. The only other team names engraved on the inner bowl are the 1914-15 Vancouver Millionaires.

4. And it’s always changing.

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More and more teams wanted to be immortalized, so the decision was made to put a separate single ring below the original Cup that each new winning roster would be etched on. Between 1927 and 1947, a new, more streamlined and vertical incarnation of the Cup was used. Thanks to its cylindrical shape, it was nicknamed the “Stovepipe Cup” (above)—but by 1948, the trophy had become too tall to hold or put on display, so the shape was changed to the tiered version used today.

5. Its rings are detachable.

Since 1958, five bands of championship names are engraved around the base of the Cup. When the rings become full, the oldest band is removed and preserved in Lord Stanley’s Vault at the Great Esso Hall in the Hockey Hall of Fame. A blank replacement band is then put in its place to be filled with the names of the next champions. No championship team names from the 1928-29 to the 1953-54 season are currently on the Cup.

6. The NHL has official engravers put each name on the cup.

In its 96-year history, there have only been four official engravers sanctioned by the NHL. The first was the 1948 Stanley Cup designer Carl Poul Peterson, a Danish engraver who moved to Montreal in 1929 and worked with his sons Arno, Ole, and John Paule in his engraving shop until his death in 1977. The current engraver is Louise St. Jacques (creator of the replica of the Presentation Cup), who took over from the second and third official engravers, Doug Boffey and his father Eric, at their shop Boffey Silversmith’s in Montreal in 1989.

To inscribe each name individually, St. Jacques disassembles the Cup from the top down, and then clamps the band being engraved in a homemade circular jig. She uses special small hammers and a series of letter stamps to strike each letter into the silver while using a metal level to keep the names as straight as possible. St. Jacques estimates that each name takes approximately a half-hour to inscribe and that it takes a non-continuous—not to mention patient—ten hours to complete every name for the winning team.

7. But they’re not always perfect.

Many champion player and team names are misspelled on the Cup. The name of the 1980-81 New York Islanders is misspelled as “Ilanders,” and the 1971-72 Boston Bruins’ name is misspelled as “Bqstqn Bruins.” Most of the errors are left on as they are—it would be too costly to fix the mistakes. But fans believe the errors add to the idiosyncratic nature of the Cup.

Corrections have been made, though: When 1996 champion Colorado Avalanche’s Adam Deadmarsh's name was spelled “Deadmarch” on the Cup, it was stamped out and corrected after he publicly stated how heartbroken he was about the error.

8. Sometimes the winning teams don’t play by the rules.

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The NHL will allow no more than 52 names from each year's winning team to be engraved, with the assumption that the people included are affiliated with or have played on that club during the Stanley Cup finals.

But Peter Pocklington—the former Edmonton Oilers owner perhaps best known for trading away The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky—included his father, Basil, on the list of names to go along with the 1983-84 champion Oilers, despite the fact that his father wasn’t officially affiliated with the team. Once found out, the league had the engraver strike out Basil’s name with a series of capital Xs (above).

9. But sometimes, there are extenuating circumstances.

When the Detroit Red Wings won the Cup in 1998, the team asked that Vladimir Konstantinov's name be engraved on the Cup, even though he didn’t play that year. The NHL allowed it because Konstantinov was a team member who was seriously injured in a car accident before the Wings defended their title.

There are also a couple of instances where no names were inscribed at all, like when the Cup wasn’t awarded in 1919 due to an outbreak of Spanish Flu. It also wasn’t awarded for the 2004-05 season because of a lockout between the league and the players union. The entire space for the players’ names reads “SEASON NOT PLAYED.”

10. Some people make multiple appearances.

Henri Richard, brother of Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard and a hockey great in his own right, is on the Cup a record 11 times as a player, while the legendary Scotty Bowman appears on the Cup the most for a coach with nine Stanley Cup wins as the skipper for the Red Wings, Penguins, and Canadiens.

With 24 victories, the Canadiens have taken home Stanley Cup more than any other NHL team—though their last win, unfortunately for Habs fans, was back in 1993. Montreal also holds the record for most consecutive Cup wins with five in a row from 1956 to 1960.

11. One fan tried to steal the Cup—but not for the reason you'd expect.

Montreal fans are so adamant about the Cup that during the 1962 playoffs, when the Cup was on display at Chicago Stadium for the defending champion Black Hawks (the name was compressed to “Blackhawks” in 1986), Habs fan Ken Kilander attempted to take the Cup and walk right out the door with it. When a police officer caught and questioned him, Kilander responded, “I want to take it back where it belongs, to Montreal.”

12. The Stanley Cup isn’t only for men.

Twelve women have their names inscribed on the Cup. The first was Marguerite Norris, who was the president of the Detroit Red Wings for their 1954-55 season victory. Sonia Scurfield is the only Canadian woman to have her name inscribed; she was the co-owner of the 1988-89 champion Calgary Flames.

13. Some people are superstitious about it.

Various players are wary of the Cup if they haven’t won it yet, and steer clear if they’re still in contention—in fact, some players on conference champion teams won’t even touch the respective Western Conference Campbell Bowl or Eastern Conference Prince of Wales Trophy so they don’t jinx their team’s chances at the real prize!

14. The Cup has a chaperone.

The Cup is always accompanied by at least one representative of the Hockey Hall of Fame, dubbed the “Keeper of the Cup.” The current Keeper, Philip Pritchard, has held the position since 1991 and even maintains a Twitter account to update followers on where the Cup goes from day to day.

Way back when the Cup was first donated, Lord Stanley mandated that two trustees must always be appointed to care for the Cup and ensure it was kept in proper condition. The two current trustees are Brian O’Neill and Ian “Scotty” Morrison, and according to the Hockey Hall of Fame, they “have absolute power over all matters regarding the Stanley Cup.”

15. The Cup belongs to the players … for one day.

The NHL allots each championship team one hundred off-season days with the Cup (accompanied by the Keeper, of course) to do with it as they wish. It was the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils who formalized the tradition of giving each player one personal day with the Cup during the off-season. In fact, since the ‘03 season, the Hall of Fame has been keeping journals of the Cup’s travels with each winning team. Though some players use their day with the trophy for peaceful reflection, others have gone a bit crazy with Lord Stanley’s Cup, as you’ll see below.

16. The Stanley Cup has gone swimming at least three times.

Following their 1991 victory over the Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux hosted the team at his house. When Lemieux wasn’t looking, Penguins winger Phil Bourque decided he wanted to see if the Cup could float—and threw the trophy into the captain’s in-ground pool. It didn’t float, and immediately sank to the bottom (thankfully, it was recovered unharmed).

Two years later the Cup also found the bottom of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy’s pool. But in 2002, when Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hašek attempted to swim with the Cup, the Keeper had had enough: He demanded Hašek dry off the trophy and give it back, thus cutting short his allotted personal day.

17. And it once spent all night in an Ottawa canal.

When the Ottawa Hockey Club, now known as the Ottawa Senators, won the Cup in 1905, the members of the “Silver Seven” had a little too much fun celebrating their victory. After the team banquet, some not-so-sober players brought the trophy outside and decided to test their accuracy by trying to kick the then-small Cup into Ottawa’s Rideau Canal.

Once successful, they went on their drunken way and forgot all about it—until their teammates realized the next day that the trophy was missing. Lord Stanley’s Cup was retrieved and given to a player named Harry Smith, the most responsible man on the team, for safekeeping.

18. The Montreal Canadiens won the Cup in 1924, and then promptly forgot about it.

When the members of the 1924 champion Canadiens got a flat tire on the way to the team’s victory banquet at owner Leo Dandurand’s house, they had to remove the Cup from the trunk of the car to get to the spare tire. The players, eager to celebrate their win, quickly changed the tire and made their way to the party. When the traditional time came for each player to drink champagne from the silver bowl, the Cup was nowhere to be found. The players had left it on the side of the road! They hopped in their car and sped back to the place where they had changed the flat and found the Cup in a snow bank on the side of the road—right where they had left it.

But that wasn’t the first time a Montreal hockey team had forgotten the Cup. The 1907 Montreal Wanderers left it at the home of a team photographer; the photographer’s mother used the Cup as a flower pot until the team came back to retrieve it!

19. Two babies have been baptized in the Cup.

After the Colorado Avalanche won the 1995-96 championship, defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre used his personal day with the Cup to have his daughter christened in the top bowl.

Eleven years later, after the Detroit Red Wings won in 2007-08, Swedish left-winger Tomas Holmström brought the silverware back to his native country so that his cousin could baptize his 7-week-old daughter in the trophy.

20. And it has seen its fair share of vice.

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The Edmonton Oilers were a force to be reckoned with in the 1980s. Between 1984 and 1990, the team won five Stanley Cups and were led by two hockey greats, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier (above). Legend has it that after their 1986-87 win, Messier brought the Cup to an Edmonton strip club called the Forum Inn and set the trophy on the main stage. One of the ladies dancing at the club then reportedly incorporated the Cup into her risqué routine.

When he won the Cup again in 1994 with the New York Rangers, Messier and his teammates brought the trophy to another strip club—Scores in Manhattan.

21. It also might hold a curse, among other things…

When Messier and the Rangers won in 1994, it ended a record 54-year championship drought for the Broadway Blueshirts (the team hadn’t won since the 1939-40 season). Fans believe that the curse might have been brought on because the Rangers disrespected the Cup.

During the ’39-’40 season, the mortgage on the Rangers’ home rink—at the time the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden—was finally paid off. To celebrate, the management of the team symbolically burned the mortgage documents in the bowl of the Stanley Cup. Then, left-winger Lynn Patrick and his teammates allegedly urinated in the Cup’s bowl to bizarrely celebrate their victory. The Rangers finally took home the trophy again in 1994, but they haven’t won hockey’s ultimate prize since.

22. And the Cup went to war.

It’s been all over the world, from Russia to the Czech Republic to Sweden, but in 2007, the Stanley Cup went to war. To boost morale for Canadian and American troops serving in the Middle East, the Cup was flown into an active war zone at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for a meet and greet. Canadians love nothing more than hockey, and you can read up on the reactions from the troops on the Hall of Fame’s Stanley Cup Journal when it went to Afghanistan here.

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35 Movies Roger Ebert Really Hated
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When Roger Ebert hated a film, he didn't mince words. On what would have been the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer's 76th birthday, here are some movies he absolutely loathed (including a couple of surprises) and his dry assessments of their value.

1. ARMAGEDDON (1998) // 1 STAR

“The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained. No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out. ... Armageddon reportedly used the services of nine writers. Why did it need any? The dialogue is either shouted one-liners or romantic drivel. ‘It’s gonna blow!’ is used so many times, I wonder if every single writer used it once, and then sat back from his word processor with a contented smile on his face, another day’s work done.”

2. THE BROWN BUNNY (2003) // 0 STARS

"I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny."

When the movie’s director responded by mocking Ebert’s weight, Ebert said, “It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of The Brown Bunny."

3. JASON X (2001) // HALF STAR

"'This sucks on so many levels.' Dialogue from Jason X; rare for a movie to so frankly describe itself. Jason X sucks on the levels of storytelling, character development, suspense, special effects, originality, punctuation, neatness and aptness of thought."

4. MAD DOG TIME (1996) // 0 STARS

"Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line  ... Mad Dog Time should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor."

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) // 1.5 STARS

"Once again, my comprehension began to slip, and finally I wrote down: 'To the degree that I do understand, I don't care.' It was, however, somewhat reassuring at the end of the movie to discover that I had, after all, understood everything I was intended to understand. It was just that there was less to understand than the movie at first suggests."

6. DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO (2005) // ZERO STARS

"[The title character] makes a living prostituting himself. How much he charges I'm not sure, but the price is worth it if it keeps him off the streets and out of another movie. Deuce Bigalow is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes ... Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

7. MR. MAGOO (1997) // HALF STAR

“Magoo drives a red Studebaker convertible in Mr. Magoo, a fact I report because I love Studebakers and his was the only thing I liked in the film. Mr. Magoo is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly.”

8. SPICE WORLD (1997) // HALF STAR

"Spice World is obviously intended as a ripoff of A Hard Day's Night which gave The Beatles to the movies ... the huge difference, of course, is that the Beatles were talented—while, let's face it, the Spice Girls could be duplicated by any five women under the age of 30 standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts."

9. GOOD LUCK CHUCK (2007) // 1 STAR

"There is a word for this movie, and that word is: Ick."

10. FREDDY GOT FINGERED (2001)// 0 STARS

"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

11. CORKY ROMANO (2001) // HALF STAR

Corky Romano is like a dead zone of comedy. The concept is exhausted, the ideas are tired, the physical gags are routine, the story is labored, the actors look like they can barely contain their doubts about the project.”

12. CHARLIE'S ANGELS (2000) // HALF STAR

Charlie’s Angels is like the trailer for a video game movie, lacking only the video game, and the movie.”

13. MANNEQUIN (1987) // HALF STAR

“A lot of bad movies are fairly throbbing with life. Mannequin is dead. The wake lasts 1 1/2 hours, and then we can leave the theater. Halfway through, I was ready for someone to lead us in reciting the rosary.”

14. EXIT TO EDEN (1994) // HALF STAR

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t get Rosie O’Donnell. I’ve seen her in three or four movies now, and she generally had the same effect on me as fingernails on a blackboard. She’s harsh and abrupt and staccato and doesn’t seem to be having any fun. She looks mean. ...  What were your first thoughts the first time Rosie turned up in the leather dominatrix uniform? Did you maybe have slight misgivings that you were presiding over one of the more misguided film projects of recent years?”

15. HOCUS POCUS (1993) // 1 STAR

“Of the film’s many problems, the greatest may be that all three witches are thoroughly unpleasant. They don’t have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels. A good movie inspires the audience to subconsciously ask, ‘Give me more!’ The witches in this one inspired my silent cry, ‘Get me out of here!’”

(What can we say? Ebert was occasionally wrong.)

16. TOMMY BOY (1995) // 1 STAR

“No one is funny in Tommy Boy. There are no memorable lines. None of the characters is interesting, except for the enigmatic figure played by Rob Lowe, who seems to have wandered over from Hamlet. Judging by the evidence on the screen, the movie got a green light before a usable screenplay had been prepared, with everybody reassuring themselves that since they were such funny people, inspiration would overcome them.”

17. THE VILLAGE (2004) // 1 STAR

“Eventually the secret of Those, etc., is revealed. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.”

18. THE LOVE GURU (2008) // 1 STAR

“Myers has some funny moments, but this film could have been written on toilet walls by callow adolescents. Every reference to a human sex organ or process of defecation is not automatically funny simply because it is naughty, but Myers seems to labor under that delusion. He acts as if he’s getting away with something, but in fact all he’s getting away with is selling tickets to a dreary experience.”

19. SHE'S OUT OF CONTROL (1989) // 0 STARS

“What planet did the makers of this film come from? What assumptions do they have about the purpose and quality of life? I ask because She’s Out of Control is simultaneously so bizarre and so banal that it’s a first: the first movie fabricated entirely from sitcom cliches and plastic lifestyles, without reference to any known plane of reality.”

20. SUMMER SCHOOL (1987) // HALF STAR

“You see it, you leave the theater, and then it evaporates, leaving just a slight residue, something like a vaguely unpleasant taste in the memory.”

21. CLIFFORD (1994) // HALF STAR

“It’s not bad in any usual way. It’s bad in a new way all its own. There is something extraterrestrial about it, as if it’s based on the sense of humor of an alien race with a completely different relationship to the physical universe. The movie is so odd, it’s most worth seeing just because we’ll never see anything like it again. I hope.”

22. NORTH (1994) // 0 STARS

"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

Alan Zweibel wrote this film, and he got a chance to confront Ebert about the review. In a bathroom.

23. 200 CIGARETTES (1999)// HALF STAR

"Maybe another 200 cigarettes would have helped; coughing would be better than some of this dialogue."

24. DEATH TO SMOOCHY (2002) // HALF STAR

"In all the annals of the movies, few films have been this odd, inexplicable and unpleasant."

25. SAVING SILVERMAN (2001) // HALF STAR

"Saving Silverman is so bad in so many different ways that perhaps you should see it, as an example of the lowest slopes of the bell-shaped curve."

He included a critique of Neil Diamond, who makes a guest appearance in the movie: "As for Neil Diamond, Saving Silverman is his first appearance in a fiction film since The Jazz Singer (1980), and one can only marvel that he waited 20 years to appear in a second film, and found one even worse than his first one."

26. THE JAZZ SINGER (1980) // 1 STAR

From rogerebert.com:

"Diamond's whole presence in this movie is offensively narcissistic. His songs are melodramatic, interchangeable, self-aggrandizing groans and anguished shouts, backed protectively by expensive and cloying instrumentation. His dramatic presence also looks over-protected, as if nobody was willing to risk offending him by asking him to seem involved, caring and engaged.

"Diamond plays the whole movie looking at people's third shirt buttons, as if he can't be bothered to meet their eyes and relate with them. It's strange about the Diamond performance: It's not just that he can't act. It's that he sends out creepy vibes. He seems self-absorbed, closed off, grandiose, out of touch with his immediate surroundings."

27. ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994) // 1 STAR

"Most of the people look as if they would rather be in other movies. The movie basically has one joke, which is Ace Ventura's weird nerdy strangeness. If you laugh at this joke, chances are you laugh at Jerry Lewis, too, and I can sympathize with you even if I can't understand you. I found the movie a long, unfunny slog through an impenetrable plot. Kids might like it. Real little kids."

28. STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT (1992) // HALF STAR

"Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! is one of those movies so dimwitted, so utterly lacking in even the smallest morsel of redeeming value, that you stare at the screen in stunned disbelief. It is moronic beyond comprehension, an exercise in desperation during which even Sylvester Stallone, a repository of self-confidence, seems to be disheartened."

29. THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (2005) // 1 STAR

"Of course you don't have to be smart to get into The Dukes of Hazzard. But people like Willie Nelson and Burt Reynolds should have been smart enough to stay out of it. Here is a lame-brained, outdated wheeze about a couple of good ol' boys who roar around the back roads of the South in the General Lee, their beloved 1969 Dodge Charger. As it happens, I also drove a 1969 Dodge Charger. You could have told them apart because mine did not have a Confederate flag painted on the roof."

30. GODZILLA (1998) // 1.5 STARS

"Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter's Basilica. It's a rebuke to the faith that the building represents. Cannes touchingly adheres to a belief that film can be intelligent, moving and grand. Godzilla is a big, ugly, ungainly device to give teenagers the impression they are seeing a movie."

31. THE BUCKET LIST (2007) // 1 STAR

"The Bucket List is a movie about two old codgers who are nothing like people, both suffering from cancer that is nothing like cancer, and setting off on adventures that are nothing like possible. I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients; there may be an outbreak of bedpans thrown at TV screens."

32. DIRTY LOVE (2005) // 0 STAR

"I would like to say more, but—no, I wouldn't. I would not like to say more. I would like to say less. On the basis of Dirty Love, I am not certain that anyone involved has ever seen a movie, or knows what one is."

33. BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000) // HALF STAR

"This movie is awful in so many different ways. Even the opening titles are cheesy. Sci-fi epics usually begin with a stab at impressive titles, but this one just displays green letters on the screen in a type font that came with my Macintosh. Then the movie's subtitle unscrolls from left to right in the kind of 'effect' you see in home movies."

34. THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS (2000) // HALF STAR

"This is an ideal first movie for infants, who can enjoy the bright colors on the screen and wave their tiny hands to the music."

35. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) // 0 STARS

"John Waters' Pink Flamingos has been restored for its 25th anniversary revival, and with any luck at all that means I won't have to see it again for another 25 years. If I haven't retired by then, I will. ... Note: I am not giving a star rating to Pink Flamingos because stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object."

Reviews via RogerEbert.com.

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14 Bold Facts About Bald Eagles
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Bald eagles are powerful symbols of America—but there’s a whole lot more to these quirky birds.

1. YOUNG BALD EAGLES AREN'T BALD.

A young bald eagle with a brown head on a beach.
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So obviously adult bald eagles aren't really bald, either—their heads have bright white plumage that contrasts with their dark body feathers, giving them a "bald" look. But young bald eagles have mostly brown heads. In fact, for the first four or five years of their lives, they move through a complicated series of different plumage patterns; in their second year, for instance, they have white bellies.

2. BALD EAGLES SOUND SO SILLY THAT HOLLYWOOD DUBS OVER THEIR VOICES.

A red-tailed hawk.
A red-tailed hawk's screech is usually dubbed over the bald eagle's weaker scream.
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It's a scene you’ve probably seen countless times in movies and on TV: an eagle flies overhead and emits a rough, piercing scream. It's a classic symbol of wilderness and adventure. The only problem? Bald eagles don't make that sound.

Instead, they emit a sort of high-pitched giggle or a weak scream. These noises are so unimpressive that Hollywood sound editors often dub over bald eagle calls with far more impressive sounds: the piercing, earthy screams of a smaller bird, the red-tailed hawk. If you were a fan of The Colbert Report, you might remember the show's iconic CGI eagle from the opener—it, too, is making that red-tailed hawk cry. Listen for yourself and decide who sounds more impressive.

3. THEY EAT TRASH AND STOLEN FOOD.

Two bald eagles guard their prey against two magpies on a snowy field.
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Picture a majestic bald eagle swooping low over a lake and catching a fish in its powerful claws. Yes, bald eagles eat a lot of fish—but they don't always catch it themselves. They've perfected the art of stealing fish from other birds such as ospreys, chasing them down until they drop their prey.

Bald eagles will also snack on gulls, ducks, rabbits, crabs, amphibians, and more. They'll scavenge in dumpsters, feed on waste from fish processing plants, and even gorge on carrion (dead, decaying animals).

4. BALD EAGLES USUALLY MATE FOR LIFE.

Two bald eagles perched on a tree.
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Trash and carrion aside, they're pretty romantic animals. Bald eagles tend to pair up for life, and they share parenting duties: the male and the female take turns incubating the eggs, and they both feed their young.

5. … AND THEY LIVE PRETTY LONG LIVES.

Two bald eagles sitting on a rock.
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Those romantic partnerships are even more impressive because bald eagles can survive for decades. In 2015, a wild eagle in Henrietta, New York, died at the record age of 38. Considering that these birds pair up at 4 or 5 years of age, that's a lot of Valentine's Days.

6. THEY HOLD THE RECORD FOR THE LARGEST BIRD'S NEST.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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Bald eagles build enormous nests high in the treetops. The male and female work on the nest together, and this quality time helps them cement their lifelong bond. Their cozy nurseries consist of a framework of sticks lined with softer stuff such as grass and feathers. If the nest serves them well during the breeding season, they'll keep using it year after year. And, like all homeowners, they can't resist the thought of renovating and adding to their abode. Every year, they'll spruce it up with a whopping foot or two of new material.

On average, bald eagle nests are 2-4 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide. But one pair of eagles near St. Petersburg, Florida, earned the Guinness World Record for largest bird’s nest: 20 feet deep and 9.5 feet wide. The nest weighed over two tons.

7. FEMALES ARE LARGER THAN MALES.

Two bald eagles in their large nest.
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In many animal species, males are (on average) larger than females. Male gorillas, for example, dwarf their female counterparts. But for most birds of prey, it's the opposite. Male bald eagles weight about 25 percent less than females.

Scientists aren't sure why there's such a size difference. One reason might be the way they divide up their nesting duties. Females take the lead in arranging the nesting material, so being bigger might help them take charge. Also, they spend longer incubating the eggs than males, so their size could intimidate would-be egg thieves.

If you're trying to tell male and female eagles apart, this size difference may help you—especially since both sexes have the same plumage patterns.

8. TO IDENTIFY THEM, LOOK AT THE WINGS.

A bald eagle flies across the water.
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People often get excited about a big soaring bird and yell "It's an eagle!” just before it swoops closer and … oops, it's a vulture. Here's a handy identification tip. Bald eagles usually soar with their wings almost flat. On the other hand, the turkey vulture—another dark, soaring bird—holds its wings up in a shallow V shape called a dihedral. A lot of large hawks also soar with slightly raised wings.

9. THEY'RE COMEBACK KIDS.

Baby eagle chicks in a nest.
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Before European settlers arrived, bald eagles were abundant across the U.S. But with settlement came habitat destruction, and the settlers viewed the eagles as competition for game and as a threat to livestock. So many eagles were killed that in 1940 Congress passed an act to protect the birds.

Unfortunately, another threat rose up at about that time. Starting after World War II, farmers and public health officials used an insecticide called DDT. The chemical worked well to eradicate mosquitos and agricultural pests—but as it traveled up the food chain, it began to heavily affect birds of prey. DDT made eagle eggshells too thin and caused the eggs to break. A 1963 survey found just 471 bald eagle pairs in the lower 48 states.

DDT was banned in the early 1970s, and conservationists began to breed bald eagles in captivity and reintroduce them in places across America. Luckily, this species made a spectacular recovery. Now the lower 48 states boast over 9700 nesting pairs.

10. THEY'RE UNIQUELY NORTH AMERICAN.

An African fish eagle flies over the water.
The African fish eagle is a relative of the North American bald eagle.
iStock

You've probably heard of America's other eagle: the golden eagle. This bird lives throughout much of the northern hemisphere. But the bald eagle is only found in North America. It lives across much of Canada and the U.S., as well as northern parts of Mexico.

Though it may be North American, the bald eagle has seven close relatives that are found throughout the world. They all belong to the genus Haliaeetus, which comes—pretty unimaginatively—from the Latin words for "sea" and "eagle." One relative, the African fish eagle, is a powerful symbol in its own right. It represents several countries; for example, it's the national symbol of Zambia, and graces the South Sudanese, Malawian, and Namibian coats of arms.

11. THEY'RE AERIAL DAREDEVILS.

A bald eagle carries a fish off in its talons.
iStock

It seems too weird to be true: While flying, bald eagles sometimes grab each other's feet and spin while plummeting to the Earth. Scientists aren't sure why they do this—perhaps it's a courtship ritual or a territorial battle. Usually, the pair will separate before hitting the ground (as seen in this remarkable set of photographs). But sometimes they hold tight and don't let go. These two male bald eagles locked talons and hit the ground with their feet still connected. One subsequently escaped and the other was treated for talon wounds.

12. THEIR EYES ARE AMAZING.

Close-up of a bald eagle's face.
iStock

What if you could close your eyes and still see? Besides the usual pair of eyelids, bald eagles have a see-through eyelid called a nictitating membrane. They can close this membrane to protect their eyes while their main eyelids remain open. The membrane also helps moisten and clean their eyes.

Eagles also have sharper vision than people, and their field of vision is wider. Plus, they can see ultraviolet light. Both of those things mean the expression "eagle eye" is spot-on.

13. THEY MIGRATE … SORT OF.

A bald eagle sits in a snowy tree.
iStock

If you're a bald eagle that nests in northern Canada, you'll probably head south for the winter to avoid the punishing cold. Many eagles fly south for the winter and return north for the summer—as do plenty of other bird species (and retired Canadians). But not all bald eagles migrate. Some of them, including individuals in New England and Canada's Maritime provinces, stick around all year. Whether or not a bird migrates depends on how old it is and how much food is available.

14. THEY CAN SWIM … SORT OF.

A bald eagle
iStock

There are several videos online—like the one above—that show a bald eagle swimming in the sea, rowing itself to shore with its huge wings. Eagles have hollow bones and fluffy down, so they can float pretty well. But why swim instead of soar? Sometimes, an eagle will swoop down and grab an especially weighty fish, then paddle it to shore to eat.

Note that the announcer in the video above says that the eagle's talons are "locked" on a fish that's too heavy to carry. In fact, those lockable talons are an urban legend.

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