In the National Football League, birds of prey have become one of the most popular representations of various teams and their city’s identity. The AFC boasts the Super Bowl-defending Ravens of Baltimore while the NFC plays nest to the Eagles, Falcons, Cardinals and, of course, Seahawks. Four of those five have pretty self-explanatory names, but what exactly is a Seahawk?
To start, it is technically an osprey, or Pandion haliaetus, which is Latin for “sea eagle.” It makes sense that the team took on the nickname of the bird instead of its actual title — the Seattle Ospreys doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The “sea hawk” is dark brown on the top of its body, white below and has a prominent dark eye stripe. For survival reasons, the bird is not a distinctive blue and green like its football counterpart. Instead, its crooked wings are distinguishing, as are its loud, sharp whistles. The U.S. Geological Survey notes that the bird typically weighs between 2.5-4.5 lbs, but it has a wing span of about 56 inches.
The osprey is an intimidating predator that commonly patrols waters looking for seafood, earning it another nickname – the fish hawk. The Seattle Times says it has been deemed a friendly bird with humans but when it spots its prey, it can hover at heights of up to 100 feet before soaring into the water to grab fish with its impressive talons.
That is the osprey, or Seahawk. When the franchise was awarded in 1974, the team left it up to the fans, not ornithologists, to come up with the name. The “Seahawks” was the most popular name of over 1,700 entries.
In 2007, the Seahawks introduced Taima the Hawk, the bird that leads the team onto CenturyLink Field at every home game. The name Taima is of Native American origin and means “thunder.” What kind of bird is Taima? The Seahawks official website describes the bird as an augur hawk. It is identified as having a “black head and tail separated by a creme chest with a unique creme throat with black stripe.” Taima’s wingspan is about 4.5 feet.
Then there is Blitz, a 6’1″ mega-bird born in the Kingdome. He currently resides at CenturyLink Field and I’m not really sure what kind of bird he is specifically, though he is, of course, a Seahawk through and through.
To straighten things out, most hawks that feed on fish in the sea are deemed “sea hawks” so there are truly multiple different birds with the nickname.
But the osprey is the true and official bird behind the name for Seattle’s football team and it will be that way for a long time.