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Virgin Islands (United States)

Last modified: 2009-07-26 by dov gutterman
Keywords: virgin islands | united states | bald eagle | eagle | st. croix |
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image by Željko Heimer, 13 February 1996

Official Name: United States Virgin Islands
Previous name: Danish West Indies
Capital: Charlotte Amalie
Location: Caribbean
Government Type: Organized, Unincorporated Territory of the US
Flag adopted: 17 May 1921
ISO Code: VI

See also:


The flag of the US Virgin Island shows a bird in a pose similar to that on the US presidential flag or state arms. However, its colouring is not that of a bald eagle, and it looks much more benign. What is this bird?
Rob Raeside, 17 January 2000

It is a bald eagle. The flag of the Virgin Islands uses a simplified version of the US coat of arms. National Geographic Magazine, September 1934 attributes the flag as being that of the Governor of the Virgin Islands, adopted by executive order of the President. DK goes into more detail: adopted in 1921, the three arrows represent the three main islands.
Phil Nelson, 17 January 2000

OK, it is supposed to be a bald eagle, since it was based on the US arms. But, what does distinguish a (heraldic) bald eagle? Only the white head, and nothing more. Yet this USVI eagle is all golden, just like, say, the Russian or Egyptian eagles... And that's weird, as even American Samoa shows a proper colored bald eagle (not to mention Illinois, Utah, Iowa or New York...).
António Martins, 20 January 2000

The official website of the government of the Virgin Islands states:
The flag of the United States Virgin Islands was adopted by Executive Order on May 17,1921. Upon a white field between, the letters V I, an American Eagle in yellow is displayed with the shield of the United States on its breast. A sprig of laurel is in its dexter talon, while a bundle of three blue arrows are in its sinister talon. The letters V I and the three arrows are in azure blue and the blue of the shield is the blue of the arms and flag of the United States.
Phil Nelson, 7 Febuary 2000

From <>: Recently Blanche Sasso from the US Virgin Islands could celebrate her 105th birthday. "In 1921 she embroidered the first U.S. Virgin Islands flag with her sister, Grace Sparks. The flag design was done by Sparks' husband", as the news report states.
Martin Karner, 19 September 2004

There really is little (if any) doubt that that the USVI flag shows a simplified version of the US national emblem, and that Admiral Kettelle so designed it in 1921.
Leaving aside any consideration of the two practically identical shields, the US emblem shows a bald eagle in its proper colours with outspread wings, and whilst it is arguable whether those wings are heraldically "displayed" as per the official blazon or "volant", those of the VI show a very similar attitude, with the bird (howsoever simplified in rendition) having an eagle's beak and clutching in its talons both a bunch of arrows and a branch in the same way as in the US..
Christopher Southworth, 25 September 2008

The Seal

image from <> , located by Joe McMillan, 20 September 2001

The bird on the Virgin Islands' flag is not an American eagle - it is a bananaquit, a beautiful little warbler native to the Caribbean. See: <>.
The flag I saw looked like the bananaquit. There is another flag that does look like an eagle
D. Regina Boyd, 24 and 27 September 2008

Every source I have quotes it as being an "American Eagle" (or sometimes "a version of the US arms"), and in all truth it looks like the same eagle (but in gold) to me.
However, is not the bird on the seal of the US Virgin Islands a bananaquit?
Christopher Southworth, 24 September 2008

It is s a "Yellow Breast" according to <|>: "The present Great Seal of the U.S. Virgin Islands became effective on January 1, 1991. It was designed by Mitch Davis, a native Virgin Islander, and was selected from among 33 other submissions from around the world. The symbols depicted thereon are representative of the three major islands comprising the U.S. Virgin Islands and were chosen for their historical as well as future significance. The sugar mill was chosen for St. Croix because it was the center of agricultural productivity during the early years of the island?s history. Today, St. Croix is the hub of industrial production in the territory, with the Hess Oil Refinery, Martin Marietta Complex and the Industrial Park. The Annaberg ruins on the island of St. John represent that islands?s role in the production of sugar and the slave uprisings. The ruins currently site in the National Park, which is the bastion of preservation in the territory and its environment for the present and into the future. The Legislative Building on the island of St. Thomas represents the seat of government and the capital of the United States Virgin Islands. The two flags being flown are the Dannaberg, which is being lowered, and the U.S. flag. The flags depict the transfer of the islands from Denmark to the United States on March 31, 1917, on the grounds of the Legislature. The boat in the harbor of St. Thomas represents the importance of the islands in interstate and international commerce, from Columbus? discovery of the islands to the present and into the future, with the cruise ship and charter boat industries as well as down island traders.
The motto inscribed on the scroll, "United in Pride and Hope" relates to the fact that the islands are inhabited by varied groups of people of different ethnic, national and religious persuasions and all live together in relative harmony to form one community.
Put the above variables together and you have a seal that represents pride, dignity, history, culture and the natural beauty of the United States Virgin Islands.
The purpose of this design is to instill a sense of pride and dignity in the U.S.V.I. and in our people. Each color which makes up the composition was chosen to exemplify a specific identity to the islands. Working from the outside to the center, the significance of each aspect of the design is described below.
The words "Legislature of the United States Virgin Islands" encircle the seal. The yellow color which borders the seal represents our tropical sun with its brilliant rays beaming down and keeping us warm 365 days a year; the green color of the islands represents the foliage that is ever present and creates our natural beauty; the white trim around the islands represents the white sand that is found on our world-renowned beaches; the blue represents the crystal clear waters which surround our islands and the magnificent blue skies which are seldom cloudy.
In addition, the Yellow Breast, our national bird, with its regal-colored chest is perched on a stem of our national flower, the Yellow Cedar, with three of its fruits, three flowers in bloom, and three leaves, all representing the three major islands. These national symbols were especially selected for the following reasons: 1. they are our legally adopted national symbols; 2. they are easily recognized; and 3. they populate all of the islands."
Jarig Bakker, 24 September 2008

A bananaquit  is a passerine, being the only member of genus Coereba. Local names:  beany bird (Jamaica), honey-creeper (St Vincent, US Virgin Is), see-see bird (Grenada), sikyé-bird (Trinidad), sugar-bird (Barbados, USVI), and yellow-breast (Antigua, Barbados, USVI).
There is a big collection of bananaquit videos on the Internet Bird Collection (a kind of BOTW). There is also a big collection of bananaquit songs at <>.
Ivan Sache, 24 September 2008

I saw the design of the up-coming Virgin Islands' quarter dollar. I couldn't figure out what the bird, "Yellow Breast" was supposed to be. I saw that the seal also had a similar bird.
Raffaele's "A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands" concurs that the Virgin Islands' local name for the Bananaquit is "Yellows Breast", but neither the quarter dollar nor the seal as shown above looks like one.
The beak is short, looking like a sparrow's beak, not curved and sharply pointed. The throat of the bird on the seal is too light and has a blueish cast rather than gray. At the past, I was convinced it was a (still poorly drawn) warbler in winter plumage.  
Cyril N. Alberga, 1 January 2009


There are three islands in Virgin Islands. According to Administrative divisions of the World the island are divided to sub districts as follows:
Saint Croix: Anna's Hope Village, Christiansted, East End, Frederiksted, Northcentral, Northwest, Sion Farm, Southcentral, Southwest.
Saint John: Central, Coral Bay, Cruz Bay, East End.
Saint Thomas: Charlotte Amalie, East End, Northside, Southside, Tutu, Water Island, West End.
There is no information about any flags used by those subdivisions.
Dov Gutterman, 3 August 2004

St Croix

Probably won't happen, but if it does, a new flag would result.....  
From Associated Press: "At least 5,500 residents of St. Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, have signed a petition asking Congress to make the island its own U.S. territory. Supporters say seceding from the rest of the Virgin Islands would bring the island more U.S. funds. St. Croix is poorer than the two other main islands of St. Thomas and St. John.   Volunteers, who are still collecting signatures, plan to give the petition to Congress in the near future, said Rena Brodhurst, president of the Committee for St. Croix's Self-Government. But some admit they are not optimistic about its chances for success.   Only about 20 percent of St. Croix's 27,000 registered voters have signed, and reorganizing the territorial government would take major legislative changes.   Still, the petition will draw attention to St. Croix's economic needs, said Donna M. Christensen, the U.S. Caribbean territory's nonvoting representative in Congress and a St. Croix native.   "I believe in the principle that St. Croix needs more attention ... Their position is a bit extreme, but I signed it just to draw some attention," she said.   Though St. Croix is home to the Western Hemisphere's second largest oil refinery and the Cruzan Rum distillery, unemployment is at about 13 percent compared to 9 percent on the other two islands.   St. Croix residents voted four of their seven territorial senators out of office in elections on Nov. 2. Many residents complained they were poorly represented and received less than their share of government money.   Terrance Nelson, elected to the Senate this year from St. Croix, said the island needed more help, but he didn't sign the petition.   He said changing in the local government structure would be a better way to get more funding.   Nelson said it was unfair that St. Thomas and St. John elected eight of the 15 senators, leaving seven to St. Croix.   Home to 110,000 people, the Caribbean islands have been a U.S. territory since the American government purchased them from Denmark in 1917."
David C. Fowler, 15 November 2004

University of Virgin Islands

University of Virgin Islands at Brewer's Bay near Charlotte Amalie was established in 1986 (originally founded in 1963 as a College of Virgin Islands).
In October last year there was a vote to select the flag of UVI out of 14 submitted designs. I couldn't find any info on which design was finally chosen.
Source: <>.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 15 July 2008

Here is the story from <>, dated 5th November 2007: "In other action at the UVI Board of Trustees meeting, the winning design for a new UVI flag was presented and ratified. The design [...] was selected from 14 presented to the UVI community for voting. A total of 257 votes were cast. The top vote getters were Image 1 - with 57 votes, Image 8 - with 51 votes, Image 2 - with 40 votes, and Image 12 - with 38 votes."
Valentin Poposki, 19 October 2008