The Seattle Seahawks will once again be allowed to fly the club’s live hawk mascot ahead of its Super Bowl face-off with the New England Patriots outside Phoenix this Sunday. The 9-year-old augur hawk known as Taima leads the team out of the tunnel at every home game, becoming a serious fan -- and celebrity -- favorite since his introduction to the team in 2007.
The Seahawks leadership decided to allow a live bird to lead the team onto the field in 2002, according to King 5 News in Seattle. Taima, whose name means “Thunder,” lives a mile outside Spokane, Washington, with his handler and trainer Dave Knutson. Knutson admitted it took a year or two for Seahawks fans to warm up to Taima, but now the hawk’s popularity on the field is greater than ever.
“The look and expressions on our fans faces that may never have been that close to a hawk, and they get to do it at a football game, and their football team is a world champion, it doesn't get any better than that,” Knutson told King 5 News. “There must have been 300 people waiting in line at this last game against the [Green Bay] Packers, just to get their picture with him.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially shot down the possibility of using a bird of prey for commercial purposes when the trainer first proposed the idea following the Seahawks’ agreement in the early 2000s, according to the Associated Press. Since Seahawks are fictional animals, Knutson had instead suggested using ospreys, which resemble the club’s mascot. When that didn’t work, he ordered an augur hawk from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis.
After Taima was hatched in 2005, Knutson began training him to deal with chaos and loud noises. He is now able to swoop down on a stadium of screaming fans and fly through towers of flames, as well as navigate countless interactions with fans and players. The only misstep the hawk has made since his introduction to Seahawks fans in 2007 was his recent foray into the stands at a home game in early November, as noted by USA Today. The impromptu incident gave some fans an opportunity to get some close-up photographs with Taima in the stands, but was otherwise inconsequential. The Seahawks later released a statement attributed to the hawk via Twitter:
Statement from Taima (the Seahawk) regarding the pregame incident of 11.9.14: pic.twitter.com/vy2AQKGGBA
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) November 11, 2014
With NFL officials giving their approval for Taima’s attendance at the big game Sunday, the hawk will now be attending his second Super Bowl, given his appearance at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, ahead of the Seahawks victory over the Denver Broncos last year.
Fans will have the opportunity to mingle and take photos with Taima before the game Sunday, according to the Seahawks’ official site.