Pro sports teams named for birds

It’s Opening Day for Major League Baseball, so we’re marking the occasion with a fun gallery of photos of the birds commemorated by North American professional sports teams. It would be a pretty brief gallery if we stuck to baseball, since only three MLB teams qualify for this list. So we’re also recognizing teams from the NFL, NBA, and NHL — 11 species in all that inspired the names of 12 teams. The photos are from our Reader Galleries

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal
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One of our most beloved, common, and stunning backyard songbirds is the namesake of MLB's St. Louis Cardinals and the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. The funny thing is that even though the bird features prominently on both teams' uniforms and logos, the name of each team began with the color cardinal red. In 1899, the baseball team's socks were said to be a "lovely shade of cardinal," so a local sportswriter started referring to the team as the Cardinals, the fans loved it, and the franchise officially adopted the name in 1900.

Arizona's football team originated in Chicago in the late 1800s, and early on, the team bought used red uniforms from the University of Chicago. The owner recognized the color as cardinal red, and ever since, the team has been known as the Cardinals.

Notably, from 1960 through 1987, the football Cardinals also played in St. Louis. How did the fans and sportswriters keep them straight? Photo by Tena Southern

Related: The home of the Milwaukee Bucks is the world’s first bird-friendly arena

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and BirdWatchingDaily.com. He joined the staff of BirdWatching (formerly Birder’s World) in 2000 and has worn many hats over the years: reporter, story wrangler, photo editor, managing editor, and now editor. Originally from Omaha, he lives with his wife and two daughters in Milwaukee and holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Marquette University. You can reach Matt at (617) 706-9098 and [email protected].

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