AUBURN, Ala. – A new golden eagle will join Auburn’s eagle roster this season to soar over Jordan-Hare Stadium before the Tigers hit the field.
Aurea made her stadium flight debut last season prior to the Liberty game and will join gameday veteran Spirit, a bald eagle, as one of two eagles that will carry on the traditional pregame flights.
Fellow golden eagle Nova is Auburn’s official eagle as War Eagle VII but he has been sidelined since 2016 with a heart condition and does not fly before games.
“Nova still makes numerous appearances at our educational shows throughout the year, but we don’t take him to games, even on the sidelines, because of the possible stress on his heart,” said Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education at the Southeastern Raptor Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Aurea was brought to the raptor center in 2016 after being found near Selma, Alabama, with an injury to her right wing. Auburn veterinarians brought her back to good health, but the aftermath of the injury causes her to have more drag during flights.
Which eagle will fly at each game? Even the trainers usually don’t know until an hour before kickoff.
“We will bring both eagles to the stadium and look at their game face, or demeanor, and decide which one we want to use,” Hopkins said. “Of course for games like the military appreciation game, we like to use bald eagle Spirit.”
Aurea is a 5-year-old female with a 6.5-foot wingspan and weighs 7.7 pounds while, in comparison, Nova, age 20, has a 6-foot wingspan and weighs 6.5 pounds. “This size difference is normal because female eagles are normally about 30 percent larger than the males,” Hopkins said.
Spirit, a 23-year-old female, has a wingspan of 6 feet and weighs 6.6 pounds. She has been making pregame flights since 2002 and is the only bald eagle to ever make pregame flights in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
While Aurea will be making only her second gameday flight this fall, she has been a fixture in the raptor center’s educational programs since 2017, taking part in nearly 400 presentations around the Southeast.
Fans in town for home football games can attend one of the raptor center’s programs, Football, Fans, and Feathers, at 4 p.m. on Fridays before gamedays.
“We also have online auctions during the football season for our game-specific, decorative lures used during the pregame flights,” Hopkins said. “These help raise funds for the care of the birds.”