Ahead of the Super Bowl, staffers at a Vermont nature center have found themselves in an ironic position: they care for falcons, but root for the Patriots.
The Atlanta Falcons are set to square off against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI on February 5.
At the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, it’s no mystery who Boston native Lauren Adams is backing.
“I think the Patriots will come out on top,” Adams said, smiling.
But the wildlife rehabilitator has been joking lately that she really loves falcons, too.
“It's hard for me,” she laughed. “I know that Patriots fans will understand when I say I care about the birds themselves, not the Atlanta Falcons!”
Adams cares for many animals, including two peregrine falcons who were permanently injured in the wild. Those birds now live at VINS, educating visitors about the natural world.
Even the Pats fan admitted the birds are a formidable team mascot for Atlanta, because falcons are known for their incredible speed, agility, and vision.
“I would call them definitely aggressive,” added Anna Autilio, a VINS educator.
Autilio showed necn another falcon up-close: an American kestrel named Danville.
She pointed out natural markings on the predator's face. They are lines of black feathers under his eyes, reminiscent of a football player's glare-cutting black greasepaint.
“And that helps him see in bright sunlight,” Autilio explained. “Just like a football player.”
“So when he’s hunting, like all falcons, he’s typically hunting on the wing,” Autilio continued, describing the benefit of Danville’s black under-eye markings. “He’s hunting things that are also flying through the air – he’s chasing after them. So if he’s trying to catch something that’s in the air above him, he has to be looking into bright sunlight, that would help him focus on that prey.”
The VINS staffers said they have deep admiration for falcons and their place in the ecosystem. They just may not have as much enthusiasm for falcons’ human namesakes.
“I think so, yes,” Autilio laughed, when asked if she will root for the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons, despite spending much of her day around falcons and other raptors at VINS.