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‘A feisty, spirited bird’: Air Force Academy’s longest-serving falcon mascot Aurora dies

A rare falcon who served as the Air Force Academy’s mascot for 23 years has died, officials said.

Aurora, the academy’s longest-serving mascot, died Wednesday, the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based service academy said in a statement.

“Her impact on the nearly 30 class years of cadet falconers and Falconry Team support staff cannot be overstated,” the statement said. “She was a feisty, spirited bird who commanded respect. We all feel her loss deeply.”

Aurora was a white phase gyrfalcon, a species that is “extremely rare in the wild and whose beauty will take your breath away,” the falconry page of the academy’s website says.

Only 3% of all falcons are gyrfalcons, the largest species of the raptors, and of those, only 1% are white, the academy said.

Trained and handled by cadets, Aurora often appeared at sports and other events at the academy, and traveled to away games with Air Force teams.

In November last year, she was injured after West Point cadets kidnapped her in a prank before the annual Air Force vs. Army football game. The U.S. Military Academy apologized for what it called an “unfortunate incident,” and Aurora was back up and flying around her pen within days of returning to Colorado.

Aurora met “tens of thousands of people and inspired multiple generations of cadets,” said a post on the Glorious Old Zoo – a nickname for the academy – Facebook page.

“Aurora was smart, fierce, and majestic. She represented the fighting spirit of the wing, and she was part of our team,” it said. “We will sorely miss her.”

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