"We are deeply saddened to announce that Aurora died earlier today," academy officials tweeted. "Aurora was the Academy’s longest-serving live mascot."
The very interesting website for the Air Force falconry program says gyrfalcons make up about three percent of the worlds falcon population, and that just one percent of gyrfalcons are white, making Aurora an exceedingly rare specimen. Oblio, her fellow abductee, is a 15-year-old male tundra peregrine falcon, and now appears to be the elder statesman of the Academys seven-bird lineup. Now all I want to do is read about falcons. The Academy says this was one of Auroras contributions—that she served as an ambassador for all falcons, helping to educate the public on the importance of these majestic birds. Aurora, well done.
Aurora, the Academys official and oldest mascot, was a White Phase Gyrfalcon, an extremely rare species in the wild. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joshua Armstrong)
Aurora made the news last year for only slightly less depressing reasons, when she and another mascot, then-15-year-old Oblio, were abducted by a pair of West Point cadets ahead of a November Air Force-Army football game. The cadets threw sweaters over the two falcons and chucked them into dog crates, where the falcons—who, notably, are not dogs—freaked out and began thrashing around in a panic. Aurora suffered abrasions that bloodied her wings, and the cadets, realizing the cruelty and stupidity of what theyd done, hastily returned the falcons to their falconer pals, who successfully nurtured them back to health.
"In her 23 years at USAFA, she interacted with tens of thousands of people at sporting venues and military and community events," officials said.
Aurora was not only an ambassador for the academy but "for all falcons," officials said, "helping us educate the public on the importance of these majestic birds."
"Her impact on the nearly 30 class years of cadet falconers and Falconry Team support staff cannot be overstated," the academy said. "She was a feisty, spirited bird who commanded respect."
Aurora had recovered from injuries to both wings in 2018 during a prank abduction before the annual football game against the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Aurora, an extremely rare White Phase Gyrfalcon, was a gift from the academy's Association of Graduates in 2000.
Aurora weighed in at about three and a half pounds. She didnt perform at football games but did occasionally fly for exercise at the Academys athletic fields. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joshua Armstrong)
"To give context of their rarity, three percent of all falcons are gyrfalcons, and only one percent of that three percent [is] white," the academy says on its website.
The birds are trained and handled by cadet falconers and are flown at sporting events in front of crowds of thousands, according to the academy.
Aurora made headlines last season after she was abducted as part of a prank by West Point cadets ahead of their rivalry game against Army. She injured her wings during the abduction, and officials initially thought that she needed to be euthanized as a result. Aurora, though, quickly improved after she was recovered.
Air Force Academys longest serving falcon mascot dies after 23 years
Aurora and an Air Force Academy cadet with the U.S. Naval Academys goat mascots before the Air Force-Navy football game in 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)
“Our hearts go out to our master-and cadet-falconers, who lovingly cared for and trained Aurora for more than two decades,” Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said in a statement, Fox 31 Denver reported. “Emblematic of the beauty and majesty of our Falcons, Aurora will be greatly missed by generations of cadets, graduates, faculty members, and so many others.”
Video: Aurora, beloved Air Force Academy falcon has died
Beloved Air Force Academy falcon mascot dies at 23
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A falcon that has served as the mascot for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado for the past 23 years has died.
U.S. Air Force Academys oldest falcon mascot dies in Colorado
KCNC-TV reports the passing of the falcon named Aurora was announced Wednesday by the academy near Colorado Springs.
An Air Force falcon named Aurora is expected to make a full recovery from injuries she suffered at West Point during a prank before the annual football game between the service academies.