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

Aurora decelerates onto the glove of then-Cadet 1st Class Anthony Cannone, a U.S. Air Force Academy falconer, while practicing her flying performance for an upcoming football game in 2014.

U.S. AIR FORCE

By KARIN ZEITVOGEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 3, 2019

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 live 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,” says a falconry page on the academy’s website.

Only 3% of all falcons are gyrfalcons, the largest species of falcon, 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.

In addition to serving as a mascot, “she was an ambassador for all falcons, helping us educate the public on the importance of these majestic birds,” the academy said.

zeitvogel.karin@stripes.com
Twitter: @StripesZeit

 

U.S. Air Force Academy mascot Aurora has died. The falcon was the longest-serving live mascot in the school’s 65-year history.
BEN BLOKER/U.S. AIR FORCE

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