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Handy on the wing: Europe's footballing birds

Published: Friday 12 August 2016, 14.00CET
Always handy on the wing, birds have inspired football clubs across Europe; surveys the skyline and finds blue pigeons, a flock of eagles and a seagull slain by a Dutch football.
Handy on the wing: Europe's footballing birds
Benfica's Eagle mascot ©Getty Images features

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Published: Friday 12 August 2016, 14.00CET

Handy on the wing: Europe's footballing birds

Always handy on the wing, birds have inspired football clubs across Europe; surveys the skyline and finds blue pigeons, a flock of eagles and a seagull slain by a Dutch football.

From the Bluebirds of Cardiff City to the Woodpeckers of Ascoli, surveys the feathered friends which have inspired European football clubs.

Cardiff City (ENG)
Bluebirds, it should be noted, are not native to South Wales, with the club's nickname deriving from the colour of their shirts and the swallow on their badge.

Blue Pigeons
Spartak Subotica (SRB)
The Subotica side were named in honour of the colour of their shirts, the blue-grey shade being known as pigeon blue in Serbia. Local fans liked the symbolism of the common bird too, inspired by the thought of their club flying high in the sky. Incidentally, the team now wear more conventional blue-and-white striped shirts, but the old pigeon blue tone can be seen on their badge and on the flag supporters display in the north side of their home stadium.

©Getty Images

The Yellow Canaries of Fenerbahçe

Koper (SLO)
Nantes (FRA)
Fenerbahçe (TUR)
Sint-Truiden (BEL)
Lillestrøm (NOR)
Modena (ITA)
Norwich City (ENG)
Botev Plovdiv (BUL)
A nickname that is almost exclusive to clubs who wear yellow, with Fenerbahçe's nickname, the Yellow Canaries, the only one to acknowledge, albeit tacitly, that not all canaries are yellow. Sparta Rotterdam wear red-and-white stripes but have a strong connection with canaries in their native Netherlands, since one fan famously sat behind the goal at every match with one in a birdcage. He later received a royal honour for an act of dedication that might have seen him sectioned elsewhere.

©Getty Images

Cockerel at Spurs' White Hart Lane home

Bradford City (ENG)
Denizlispor (TUR)
Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
The Hotspur in Tottenham's name comes from Harry Hotspur, a medieval English nobleman who appears in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1, and was famous for his riding spurs and fighting cocks. Spurs is the club's commonly used nickname, but a cockerel appears on the club's badge – and in a prominent position at White Hart Lane. Turkish side Denizlispor also have a cockerel on their club badge and are nicknamed the Roosters, while Bradford City are called the Bantams, a cockerel known for its aggression.

Košice (SVK)
The Vraňare are named in honour of the crows that flock around their home town, especially in the city's park. The Crows' nickname is used most often when local clubs take on rivals from nearby Presov (whose football and hockey sides are both nicknamed Koňare – the horses) with Crows v Horses games representing the biggest derbies in eastern Slovakia.

APEP Kyperounda (CYP)
Omonia Aradippou (CYP)
A symbol of hope, the Dove appears on the Cyprus national team badge, and is also an important symbol for two of the country's clubs. APEP's emblem shows a dove carrying an envelope, while Omonia Aradippou's badge features two doves, which is also the club's nickname.

©Getty Images

Vitesse mascot Hertog the Eagle

Beşiktaş (TUR)
Crystal Palace (ENG)
Eintracht Frankfurt (GER)
Argeş Piţesti (ROU)
Banants (ARM)
Milsami Orhei (MDA)
Ferencváros (HUN)
Go Ahead Eagles (NED)
Triglav (SVN)
Neath (WAL)
Nice (FRA)
Pirin Blagoevgrad (BUL)
Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL)
Benfica (POR)
Lazio (ITA)
Palermo (ITA)
Vitesse (NED)
By far the most popular European bird in footballing terms, a host of clubs have a tradition of allowing a live eagle to fly around their stadiums before each home game; Lazio (whose eagle is called Olimpia), Benfica (Vitória), Crystal Palace (Kayla), Eintracht (Attila) and Vitesse (Hertog II – literally, duke the second, with the first duke having died).
The list above includes the Black Eagles of Beşiktaş, the Green Eagles of Ferencváros, the Little Eagles of Pirin Blagoevgrad, the Violet Eagles of Argeş Piţesti and the Eaglets of Nice. Meanwhile, Eintracht took eagle worship to a new level a few years back when coach Klaus Toppmöller brought a live eagle into the dressing room to inspire his players. Albania's KS Luftetari were once called KS Shqiponja – shqiponja being Albanian for eagle.

Sokol Saratov (RUS)
Gaziantepspor (TUR)
Spartak Varna (BUL)
Valur Rejkjavík (ISL)
There are a few falcons around, but our favourites come from Iceland, with Valur being the local word for falcon. The name came about when the group of local boys responsible for forming the team saw a falcon flying when they were discussing names for the new club. Interestingly, Fridrik Fridriksson, one of the club's founders in 1911, established a second club, Haukur, in Hafnarfjordur, whose name means literally hawk.

©Getty Images

Magpies at Newcastle United

Newcastle United (ENG)
Notts County (ENG)
An English-only phenomenon – and not surprisingly, both of England's Magpies are so named because they wear black-and-white shirts, with two magpies also appearing on the badge of Notts County, the world's oldest professional football club.

Ballinamallard United (NIR)
The Northern Irish club are nicknamed in honour of the duck that appears in the name of their home town – Ballinamallard, incidentally, means 'ford-mouth of the curses' and actually has nothing to do with mallards.

©Getty Images

An owl disrupting play at Finland v Belgium

Sheffield Wednesday (ENG)
İstanbul BB (TUR)
Wednesday's nickname is a derivation of their former home at the Owlerton Stadium. Oldham Athletic FC also have an owl on their badge (a derivation of the name of their home town), and so once did Leeds United AFC, though this was removed in the 1970s. İstanbul BB are the Grey Owls. The most famous footballing owl was the giant eagle owl that briefly interrupted Finland's 2-0 UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying win against Belgium, swooping into the Helsinki Olympic Stadium and perching on the crossbar.

©Getty Images

Espanyol's parakeet mascot

Espanyol (ESP)
The origin of Los Periquitos's nickname is obscure. One theory is that parakeets gathered around the club's old Estadio de Sarriá home where fans would feed them birdseed before games. A more exciting theory suggests that, back in the 1920s, Catalan satirist Valentí Castanys referred to followers of the team as "the four black cats" (cuatro gatos – meaning, hardly anyone) highlighting the size of their crowds relative to those of their neighbours, Barcelona. The popular cartoon character Felix the Cat ('gat perequito' in Catalan) got mixed up with that joke, perequito became periquito, and the rest is history.

Hibernians (MLT)
Hibernians are the Peacocks, since the bird features in the coat of arms of their home town, Paola. England's Leeds United were once Peacocks too, because they played near the city's Old Peacock pub.

Bristol City (ENG)
Newtown (WAL)
Bristol City were named because their red shirts and white shorts resemble the plumage of a robin.

Brighton & Hove Albion (ENG)
Haugesund (NOR)
Víkingur (FRO)
Brighton and Haugesund are Seagulls, while Víkingur are occasionally called the Young Gulls. They were formed by the merger of LÍF Leirvík and GÍ Gøta, who were called the Young Gulls (Skurarnir) in honour of the village of Gota's rowing boat, which bore the same name. Feyenoord, incidentally, have had a seagull in their club museum. On 15 November 1970, goalkeeper Eddy Treijtel managed to inadvertently kill the bird, hitting it with the ball while clearing his lines with a kick.

©Getty Images

West Brom's throstle

Song Thrushes
West Bromwich Albion (ENG)
Now more commonly known as the Baggies, West Brom were originally known as the Throstles – the local name for song thrushes, which nested in abundance around their home stadium, The Hawthorns.

©Getty Images

The stork on Den Haag's badge

Den Haag (NED)
Storks were once common in the Hague, and have been the symbol of the city since the 1500s, explaining why they also appear on the club's badge.

Brescia (ITA)
The Serie B side are called the Rondinelle (little swallows) because of the white v-shape in their blue shirts.

©Getty Images

The Swifts of Dungannon

Dungannon Swifts (NIR)
Founded in 1949, the Northern Irish club have the small swallow-like bird in their name and on their crest.

©Getty Images

Swansea mascot Cyril the Swan

HB Køge (DEN)
Swansea City (ENG)
Swansea were Europe's only Swans until HB Køge were founded in 2009 with the merger of Herfølge and Køge. The club's marketing and event manager Brian Romme, who designed the new club's logo, told "We chose the swan as our symbol for three reasons, the first being that we wanted to build the first carbon neutral stadium in Denmark – which we have not achieved yet – and the swan is the Nordic symbol for taking care of the environment. The second was an ambition to develop from being an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, like in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. And the third one was that the swan is Denmark's official national bird."

Ascoli (ITA)
According to legend, the club's home city of Ascoli Piceno was founded by Sabine tribesfolk, who were led westward from central Italy by a woodpecker. Alternatively, the Piceni tribe had a woodpecker as their totem. Either way, Il Picchio (the woodpecker) is what Ascoli fans call the club.

Last updated: 14/08/16 22.20CET

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