We’ve made many new friends this Premier League season, from Stephen Quinn to LvG’s oversized scarf. But no one place has given us more Premier League pals than Crystal Palace. Between Marouane Chamakh’s hair and the Crystals, we find ourselves regularly pulling for Pardew’s men.
The real breakout star of Palace’s season has been Kayla, the bald eagle that soars through Selhurst Park during the Premier League’s most American pre-game show. And in this edition of Men in Blazers‘ Three Questions, we speak with Kayla’s trainer, Chris Belsey of Eagle Heights, “one of the UK’s largest bird of prey centers.”
MiB: Explain how Crystal Palace came to associate itself with Bald Eagles? Is Kayla the first?
Chris: Crystal Palace were about to go into administration and they contacted us to ask if there was anything we could do with any of our Eagles. So we went along with two Bald Eagles (Kayla and Alaska). Alaska wasn’t as comfortable as Kayla flying in the stadium, but Kayla loved flying up and down the pitch and got the job! She has been their mascot ever since! She is the first live mascot Crystal Palace has ever had!
MiB: When Palace play at home, walk us through Kayla’s day.
Chris: Kayla sits in the passenger seat on a perch in our van as she likes to see where she is going. Kayla is not too keen on going in the travel box! When we arrive at the grounds, we get Kayla out and we put the blue and red ribbons on her anklets and a transmitter so she is ready to fly! We then grab the bag of food and glove and we go off to mingle with the fans before the match for about an hour. The fans love her and many pictures are taken with her! Just before the game and the cheerleaders begin to dance, Rob goes to the upper tier at the Holmesdale end of the stadium and Kayla flies to the other end of the pitch where I am waiting for her. She then flies around the stadium and thrives on the cheers from the crowds! The only obstacle is the sprinklers which to Kayla are the worst thing ever! Kayla also flies at half time!
MiB: Give us your very best Kayla story from Selhurst Park.
Chris: The funniest story was when Kayla decided she didn’t want her food and that a fan’s sandwich looked a lot tastier. After munching the sandwich, feeling rather full, she waddled back to me and decided no more flying for the day! She decided walking up and down the pitch was all she could do after her free lunch!
MiB: Aside from Palace games, where else does Kayla perform?
Chris: Kayla also performs up at Eagle Heights, in schools and at county fairs all over the country, and has even done some film work and appeared in the film “Clash of the Titans” and also on the Kings of Leon album cover.
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