The intersection of ornithology and North American professional sports is nowhere more prominent than in the National Football League, where no fewer than five teams sport bird names. If you like Ravens, Eagles, Falcons, Cardinals, and, of course, Seahawks, the NFL is the place for you.
The sport that comes closest to that level of avian respect is the National Hockey League. Three NHL teams have bird names (Penguins, Thrashers, and, gasp, Mighty Ducks) and three sound like they are named for birds but really aren’t. The Blackhawks are named for an indigenous tribe, the Red Wings for a tire with red wings, and the Flyers for what looks like a flying letter P (very intimidating.)
Major League Baseball also has three teams named for birds (Blue Jays, Orioles, and Cardinals) but loses style points to the NHL for the lack of additional bird-like names. Of the four most popular U.S. sports, the worst in terms of naming franchises after birds is indisputably the National Basketball Association. Only the Hawks bear the name of a bird in this league. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Raptors were named for a bird, but their logo clearly screams predatory dinosaur rather than bird of prey.
Our final award goes to the city that has proudly named not one, not two, but three out of four sports teams for birds. Atlanta boasts Falcons, Hawks, and Thrashers. It sounds like a bird watching sports nut’s paradise. Too bad they inherited the Braves from Boston!
If you’re more interested in college sports, Nick Lund can tell you which schools have aligned their athletic destiny with Bald Eagles, Blackbirds, Blue Hawks, Blue Hens, Blue Jays, Bluejays, Cardinals, Ducks, Duhawks (Dubuque Hawks), Eagles, Falcons, Firebirds, Gamecocks, Golden Eagles, Golden Falcons, Gulls (former nickname: Power Gulls), Harriers, Hawks, Herons, Hustlin’ Owls, Jayhawks, Kohawks, Larks, Marauding Eagles, Mountain Hawks, Nighthawks, Ospreys, Owls, Peacocks, Pelicans, Penguins, Purple Eagles, Ravens, Redbirds, Redhawks, Red Hawks, River Hawks, Roadrunners, Running Eagles, Sagehens, Scarlet Hawks, Screaming Eagles, Sea Gulls, Seahawks, Skyhawks, Soaring Eagles, Stormy Petrels, Sunbirds, Thunderbirds, Thunderhawks, V-Hawks, and Warhawks.