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A Wilder View: So just what is a Seattle Seahawk?

Seattle Seahawks
Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 13, 2023

MISSOULA - With the NFL back in action sports fans everywhere are watching their favorite teams under the stadium lights.

When we think of the Seattle Seahawks, we immediately hear the thunderous roar of the “Twelves.” They’ve got loud cheers, an iconic logo, and a name.

One might assume that the Seahawks are named after a genuine bird of the sea, but there's actually no such thing as a "seahawk.” Some consider a sea hawk to be a nickname for ospreys or skuas. Both birds have a lot of similarities and the most prominent is their fish-based diets.

Ospreys are true globe-trotters, found on every continent except Antarctica. They prefer waterside real estate, so you might just spot one by your local lake or ocean. You may never see a Skua. They are migratory champions, journeying from the North Pole to the South Pole, and it’s very rare for them to take a stop in the U.S.

When the Seahawks take the field at home, there's a hawk leading the charge – Taima. But guess what? Taima isn't an osprey or a skua, but an Auger Hawk. This species is found across the globe in the mountains of Africa.

The falconer that handles Taima, David Knutson, originally envisioned an osprey as their mascot but was thwarted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to restrictions on using native birds for commercial purposes. So, he got an augur hawk which has a similar look to an osprey.

So, if a seahawk isn’t a real animal, how did the Seattle team get the name?

Well, according to the Seahawks official website the club asked its fans for suggestions ahead of the 1976 season, and boy, did they deliver! Over 20,000 entries poured in, and out of the sea of ideas, "Seahawks" emerged as the victor.

Now, let's zoom in on the Seahawks' logo. Local artist Marvin Oliver presented his design, which the team proudly adopted in 1976. At that time, the Northwest Coast Art -- representing various Native tribes from Alaska and northern British Columbia, was the dominant style in the Pacific Northwest. This was due to the popularity of totem poles among tourists in the late 19th century.

The bird in the logo, inspired by Native American imagery, sported an unmistakably fierce expression. The team chose deep blue and green as its logo and uniform colors, paying homage to the Pacific Ocean coastline and the vast forests that define the state.

As the Seahawks' general manager put it, their intent was to honor the rich tapestry of Northwest Indian culture, drawing inspiration from the region's indigenous traditions.

All the other teams with animals in their names from the Dolphins to the Bears are real animals — except for the Carolina Panthers. Black panthers aren’t a real species. Panthera is the name of a genus that includes the five big cat species like leopards, jaguars, and tigers.

If you see a cat that looks like a black panther, it's probably a melanistic leopard or jaguar. Melanistic means an abundance of dark pigmentation in their skin or fur. Which is why in the biological world they’re often called dark jaguars or dark leopards.

Whether it's a seahawk or a black panther, in the world of sports, sometimes imagination takes flight!