Fun fact: A Seahawk is not a bird

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comFebruary 2, 2014 

Taima is an augur hawk most days, but becomes a Seahawk on game days at CenturyLink Field when Seattle takes the field for a National Football League game.

JOE BARRENTINE — Staff photographer file, 2011

There can be no questioning the passion Puget Sound fans have for their Seattle Seahawks. But the question being asked: is there really a seahawk?

Multiple sources — including the Seahawks’ own website — point out there is no bird known as a seahawk. Instead, it is another reference for an osprey.

Osprey, which can be found all around the Puget Sound area, also are known as a fish eagle or fish hawk. They can be found nesting in any location near a body of water that offers an adequate food supply. Osprey are the only member of the hawk family that are exclusively fishers.

There are a lot of similarities between the bird and the team, said Jessica Sutherland, staff zoologist at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

Osprey have a dark-colored slash under their eyes, similar to the dark patches players use to cut down the glare and make it easier to see. Osprey do have an advantage with eyesight five times better than humans have, Sutherland said.

Extremely dexterous, osprey are the only raptor other than owls with an outer toe that is reversible. That allows the bird to hold a fish like a torpedo underneath it, making them more aerodynamic when they fly.

They also have tiny bumps, called sticules, on the bottoms of their feet. Like a wide receiver wearing grippy gloves, the bumps help the osprey hold onto a slimy fish.

They’re extremely fast and agile, able to hover over the water, sometimes 100 feet up, waiting to see a fish. They can reach speeds of 80 mph when they dive — a speed even fleet-footed wide receiver Percy Harvin can’t approach.

But what about the bird that flies out of the tunnel at Seahawks games, you ask? That is no osprey.

Taima, as it is named, is actually an augur hawk, also known as a buteo hawk. Since 2007, Taima has flown around CenturyLink Field on game days. By the way, Taima means “Thunder,” perhaps like the sound made by the Legion of Boom.

As for the football team, the “Seahawk” name was chosen from 20,000 entries during a fan contest in 1975.

Did you know Seattle’s team was not the first Seahawks in pro football? Miami was home to the Seahawks, playing in the All-American Football Conference in 1946 before folding after the season. The team was bought and moved to Baltimore and became the Colts of the National Football League.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

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