St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) students have been represented by the Seahawk mascot since 1984. The seahawk costume currently in use was unveiled and named Solomon in 2008. But, according to multiple people with expertise in bird anatomy, Solomon is not, in fact, a seahawk.
The Empath, a previous iteration of The Point News (TPN), reported in 1984 that the mascot was chosen by “students, faculty and staff [who] selected ‘Seahawks’ with 46 [percent] of the total vote over ‘Saints’ which was a distant second with 18 [percent] of the vote.”
In 1994, according to an SMCM archival photo and a TPN article, the mascot was named “CJ.” The costume used at that time was a blue bird with a white head and orange feet. In 2008, CJ was replaced with Solomon. The costume, according to SMCM Athletics, was purchased in part through a gift from the class of 2008 who donated money as their senior class gift.
The SMCM Seahawks are in a similar situation to the Seattle Seahawks. “What is a seahawk? Actually, there is no such thing,” the National Audubon Society said. “No ornithologist would refer to them as such … Some people, though, consider ‘sea hawks’ to be a nickname for ospreys.”
“Ospreys are sometimes called sea hawks,” Professor of Biology and ornithology expert Jordan Price told TPN. “They are more often called ‘fish hawks.’” Price seemingly agreed that Solomon was supposed to represent an osprey. But, he conceded, if the more commonly accepted name was used it “wouldn’t have been as popular as a school nickname: The St. Mary’s Fish Hawks.”
“An osprey is characterized as having a brown back and wings with a white underbelly. They have a brown stripe that goes across the eye which is yellow,” according to Lizzie Wenker, ‘17, a biology graduate from SMCM who currently works at the National Zoological Park’s nutritional lab. “Their beak is black and hooked and legs are covered in white feathers which Solomon doesn’t have.”
Solomon the Seahawk usually wears a yellow jersey. In photographs of him without his uniform, it is evident that his back, wings and underbelly are all a dark shade of navy blue, close to black. Solomon does not match the description Wenker gave of an osprey.
Todd Forsgren, the author of “Ornithological Photographs,” said that “the only local species Solomon resembles is a Bald Eagle.” Price agreed, stating that “Solomon resembles a sea eagle more than an osprey,” but Forsgren added the only sea eagle in North America is the bald eagle. Price continued to suggest that Solomon resembles the African fish eagle and the Steller’s sea eagle.
African fish eagles have white heads and yellow beaks like Solomon. These attributes are more often seen in mascot costumes for eagles than they are for ospreys.
Price explained, however, that SMCM is not alone with having a mascot which “looks nothing like the animal it is supposed to represent.” The National Audubon Society points out that the Seattle Seahawks are in a similar situation and Price added that the Baltimore Orioles changed their logo in 2011 to one that is now non-ornithologically accurate.
“The Solomon costume is definitely not an osprey but I doubt anyone has biologically accurate osprey mascots,” Wenker added. She did, however, say that the Stockton University Osprey costume is “pretty close.”
(Editors note: A version of this article appears in print without comment from the SMCM Athletics Department. The following update was added after their comments were received.)
Director of Athletic Communications Nairem Moran told TPN in an email that, “We in the athletic department realize that Solomon is not your typical ‘sea hawk.’” Moran says that due to budgetary and other restrictions, the costume they found was their best option.
Similarly to Price, Moran added that other mascots are not necessarily ornithologically accurate, “Susquehanna University is the Riverhawk (another name for the osprey) and their mascot, Bernie, is also eagle-like.”
Scott Devine, director of athletics and recreation, added, “We realize that the time has come to look into another mascot as the current one is old and out-of-date.”