Taima the Hawk trains, lives in Spokane | Sports & Recreation
Little-known fact: A key member of the Seahawks resides in the Spokane area.
Taima the Hawk, the 7-year-old African Augur Hawk that leads the team out of the tunnel before every home game, makes David Knutson's Spokane farm home.
Knutson, a master falconer, attends every Seahawk home game, training camp, organized team activity and team event east of the Cascades – logging “at the very least” 65,000 miles during that span.
Knutson's work with Taima (pronounced: TAY-ma) starts long before the regular season because the bird needs to be prepared for the thousands of people touching him and the array of stimuli that could startle an untrained bird.
“We get asked 'do you drug him?' ” Knutson said. “They ask, 'How does he stay so calm? Do you clip his wings so he doesn't fly away?' And I always want to say, 'Didn't you just see him fly onto the field?' He couldn't do that if he was drugged, you can't starve him to make him do that stuff – he'd be too weak. He has to be groomed to handle anything.”
Knutson, who has been hunting with a bird since he was a teen, has never taken Taima hunting because he can't let the natural predator learn that “his feet can be used as weapons.”
Getting Taima to lead the players out of the tunnel before the game is a highly-choreographed act. Knutson's wife, Robin, takes the bird to the edge of the tunnel about 30 seconds before the players emerge, with about six seconds left in that countdown Robin turns around and Taima spots Dave, who is standing on the 30 yard, and the bird takes off as players storm out after him and pyrotechnics blast throughout CentruyLink Stadium. When Taima lands on Dave's glove, Knutson treats the bird with a piece of quail meat.
“He loves being the first Hawk out of the tunnel,” Knutson said.
Despite doing this since the new stadium opened, Knutson says he still gets “butterflies in my stomach as I'm crossing Snoqualmie Pass.”
But before Taima can perform at games, he has to train for the season like the other athletes.
“We use the barn with a big sliding door to try to copy what it's like in the tunnel,” Knutson said. “(Robin) will stand at the back, and I'll stand in different places and he'll fly from (Robin) to me 15 to 20 times a day to get his weight down to what it is during the season.”
Taima won't perform again this season unless the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl. And after that, Knutson will induce molting earlier than normal so Taima is ready for the NFL's promo season, when he'll be needed for several pictures.
“By the time the games start, he's rock-steady,” Knutson said. “Things don't faze him. He's bomb-proof.”
- According to Knutson, more than 50 percent of people think Taima is a female. "Probably because he's pretty."
- Taima could continue performing until he was 20 to 25 years old, Knutson estimates.
- Taima was born at the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis.
- Knutson watches every home game on the sideline with Taima, who meets thousands of people as Knutson walks around the perimeter of the field.
- Taima wasn't allowed to fly before Super Bowl XL because the NFL limited field access due to bomb threats.
- Taima became accustomed to the chaos of a Seahawk game by scaring animals off of the runaways at Fairchild Air Force Base.
- Former Seahawk Matt Hasselbeck believed Taima was the team's good luck charm.
- "Taima loves everyone," according to Knutson. Even Lions fans.