For more than 100 years, eagles have been associated with Auburn University’s football program. From a static presence on the sidelines to rousing flights over the field, WAR EAGLE has become an Auburn icon.
The role of Auburn University’s eagles is to promote wildlife conservation as a part of the education initiatives of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeastern Raptor Center. The USF&WS permits the Raptor Center to house eagles and use them on hundreds of educational presentations each year – including Auburn’s home football games.
Currently, two flighted eagles and numerous other non-releasable raptors are used for these educational programs. Eagles stir emotions in many people as they have come to symbolize strength, power and courage as well as other important values such as freedom, American heritage and the preservation of our environment.
Golden Eagle Nova (War Eagle VII) and Spirit (a Bald Eagle) are the eagles who inspire football fans with their graceful flights over Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Nova was inaugurated as War Eagle VII. Although not titled War Eagle VII until November 2006, Nova’s first pre-game flight was at the Kentucky game in 2004. Nova was hatched in 1999 at the Montgomery Zoo and came to Auburn in 2000. Nova has a smaller stature because he is a male. Nova appears in scores of educational programs every year.
Spirit is the only Bald Eagle that has ever flown in Jordan-Hare Stadium. His first game flight was in 2001. You can recognize Spirit soaring before kickoff because unlike the Golden Eagles, Spirit has bright white head and tail feathers. In 1995, Spirit was discovered as an injured fledgling in Florida. He came to Auburn in 1998 and joined the educational collection at the Raptor Center. His damaged beak makes him non-releasable. Bald Eagles are found throughout Alabama and wild ones can sometimes be seen soaring in Auburn skies.
For nearly 30 years, Tiger (War Eagle VI) represented Auburn. She was the first eagle to fly untethered, at the Wyoming game on Aug. 31, 2000, She also made history flying at the opening ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Olympics, at many football games and at hundreds of educational programs. Tiger was retired from flight in 2006, at the Auburn-Georgia game. A halftime ceremony at that game recognized her contributions to the Auburn community and to the USF&WS conservation mission.
Tiger was hatched in captivity in 1980 and came to live at Auburn University in 1986. At 34 years old, Tiger died from health-related issues on June 18, 2014, and was among the oldest golden eagles in captivity.
SRC is supported by the College of Veterinary Medicine and is a non-profit organization that depends upon public and private contributions to accomplish its mission. Hundreds of educational programs for schools and other groups help to generate these funds.
At SRC, raptors are admitted with a variety of injuries and ailments. Many birds are rehabilitated and released. When release is not possible, the bird may become a permanent center resident or transfer to another educational facility.