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Inspired By Birds: Famous NFL Bird Teams (And Name Origins)

Birds make excellent symbols! They have eye-catching colors, the incredible power of flight, and birds like raptors can represent strength and fierce determination.

It’s no wonder there are five NFL bird teams! See this article to learn why each bird was chosen to represent these professional football teams.

 

Key takeaways:

  • Out of all the NFL teams, five mention a bird in their name.
  • The oldest NFL bird team is the Arizona Cardinals. Their history dates back to the end of the 19th century, but the cardinal theme started soon after.
  • Have you ever thought about how teams like the Baltimore Ravens or Atlanta Falcons got their names?

 

Inspired By Birds: NFL Bird Teams

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are one of the older football teams. Established in the late 1800s in Chicago, over the years, just as many birds do, this team migrated to Saint Louis and then on to Phoenix, Arizona.

Cardinals are beautiful garden birds, but they don’t seem to be particularly fast or tough. With that in mind, it’s hard to understand why any football franchise would choose this bird to represent their team!

NFL bird team – the Arizona Cardinals are named after Northern Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals are named after Northern Cardinals. It’s easy to see why they were used for inspiration!

As it turns out, the name happened more or less by accident. When the team’s first owner, Chris O’Brien, bought uniforms, he saved money by getting second-hand uniforms from the University of Chicago. Thanks to heavy use and many washings, the maroon dye had faded to a red hue.

O’Brien remarked how the red reminded him of a cardinal and the team’s name was born!

As it turned out, the name was a good one because most folks are familiar with and like cardinals. Since then, subsequent versions of the team maintained the cardinal name, and depictions of the popular bird have been used in its logos.

The current logo shows the head of a decidedly angry male Red Cardinal, and their mascot, “Big Red,” looks the same. You wouldn’t want to mess with that fierce-looking finch!

 

Atlanta Falcons

Falcons are the fastest birds on the planet! Any team would do well to be named after these impressive raptors, football teams included. The Atlanta Falcons got their name as the city of Atlanta worked on forming a football franchise in 1965.

Apparently, many people who suggested names for the new team were either birders or at least aware of the powerful capabilities shown by falcons. In a survey, “Falcons” was the most frequently recommended name for the team. One schoolteacher named, “Griffin” neatly summed up why this was the perfect choice.

Falcons inspired the NFL bird team Atlanta Falcons for their determination.

Among other words, Griffin remarked how falcons were courageous and deadly birds that never dropped their prey.

The team owners loved that idea and were happy to announce the creation of the Atlanta Falcons. They also released a logo that shows a stylized falcon in flight. On the hunt, the bird has its talons outstretched in front and is colored in a fierce red and black pattern.

In the 1980s, the Atlanta Falcons also inaugurated a mascot, “Freddie Falcon”. Freddie is a cheerful raptor with brown plumage, a yellow beak, and yellow legs. Although we aren’t quite sure which falcon species he is, Freddie certainly excels at entertaining Atlanta Falcons fans.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Established in 1996, the Baltimore Ravens got their name after more than 33,000 fans submitted votes to pick a name for the team. They opted for “The Ravens” to reflect the connection between Baltimore and Edgar Allen Poe, the famed author of the poem, “The Raven”.

In addition, fans also liked this team name because Ravens are prominent birds that make a big impression. Huge, glossy black birds with hefty beaks, long, soaring wings, and evocative croaking calls, once you see a Raven, you never forget the experience!

Ravens are usually seen as bad omens, but this is not the case with Baltimore Ravens

Ravens also happen to be intelligent and are some of the toughest birds on the planet.

This team name also worked because before the football team was created, Baltimore was known for hosting the Baltimore Ravens wheelchair basketball team. After this team sold the naming rights to the city, it became known as the “Maryland Ravens.”

The Baltimore Ravens team logo shows the head of a determined raven emblazoned with a “B”. With its dark blue-purple coloration and hefty beak, it’s also a pretty good depiction of a Common Raven.

When this NFL bird team became established, they also debuted a mascot. “Poe” is a big, friendly raven with long black wings, a long beak, and big eyes.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles became an official football team to replace another team in Philadelphia that had gone bankrupt in 1931, the “Frankford Yellow Jackets”.

The new owners, Bert Bell and Lud Wray, took inspiration from the Blue Eagle logo of President Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration to name their new team “The Eagles”.

This was probably an easy choice. No other team had that name and eagles are both a national symbol and impressive birds. Powerful and large, eagles also dominate their surroundings as they catch fish, ducks, and animals as big as a fox!

Bald Eagle

Since its inception, the logo for this football team has gone through some changes but usually shows a dark green Bald Eagle carrying a football. The most recent version depicts the detailed, fierce head of a screaming Bald Eagle.

In 1996, this team also chose a mascot named “Swoop”. Swoop is an adult Bald Eagle that wears an Eagles jersey with the “0 0” number. As the story goes, Swoop was a weak eagle born with poor vision but with a big and generous heart. After an Eagles fan gifted him a team jersey, he grew to human size, and his vision and strength also increased to match the size of his heart.

 

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks got their catchy name thanks to a naming contest held on June 17, 1975. More than 20,000 suggestions were mailed in and included such names as the “Lumberjacks”, “Pioneers”, and “Skippers”. However, birds ended up being more popular because they picked a common name used for the Osprey.

Osprey

As for the Seattle Seahawks, they used Ospreys as inspiration – Ospreys are often called Sea Hawks and Fish Hawks!

Their decision was certainly related to this species and the Bald Eagle both being common birds of the Seattle area. Whether you are into birds or not, in Seattle, you can’t help but notice and be impressed by these big raptors!

They command the skies with long, soaring wings and plunge into the water to catch their prey. These birds are also fast fliers, have intimidating, needle-like talons, big hooked beaks, and a permanent fierce expression!

The logo for the Seattle Seahawks captures these powerful attributes with a side view portrait of a stylized green and blue raptor head. To further connect with the Seattle area, this logo is based on indigenous face mask art from nearby regions of the Pacific Northwest.

In the 90s, this NFL bird team got a mascot named “Blitz.” A big blue hawk with a large yellow beak, Blitz entertains fans with the usual mascot antics.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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Conner Skiles

Friday 9th of February 2024

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