The Contrails: U.S. Air Force Academy Mascot
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
/ Published February 18, 2016
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
Speed, courage, and powerful flight; these are terms symbolic of the mission of the U.S. Air Force.
These also aptly describe the falcon, chosen by the first class to enter the Academy as the official mascot of the cadet wing.
The falcon is a noble bird that catches its prey in flight, killing on impact. It has keen eyesight, sharp talons, and a hooked beak for fighting. The fastest of all birds, the falcon can reach top speeds of 220 mph. Its ability to turn sharply and to streak only inches above the ground make it one of the most maneuverable birds.
The Class of 1959 chose the falcon to be the Academy’s mascot in 1955, but did not specify which species of falcon.
Any of the falcon species native to North America—the gyrfalcon, peregrine, prairie, merlin, or kestrel—may be an Academy mascot. A peregrine falcon, named Mach 1, was the first falcon presented to the Academy on 5 October 1955.
Aurora is the official mascot of the U.S. Air Force Academy. She is a gyrfalcon who came to the Academy in 1996. Aurora is an extremely rare bird; her white coloring is only found in about one percent of the gyrfalcon population. Gyrfalcons are native to the Arctic Circle, so she finds it warm here in Colorado even during the winter. She does not perform at football games, but she does occasionally fly for exercise over the Academy’s athletic fields. In the wild, gyrfalcons hunt other birds in the air ranging in size from a pigeon to a Canadian goose.