Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
A spirit that is not afraid

Ahead of final flight, trustees name Spirit an Honorary War Eagle

<p>Spirit, now celebrating her 25th birthday, rests on the arm of a trainer in Jordan-Hare Stadium on July 19, 2021, in Auburn, Ala.</p>

Spirit, now celebrating her 25th birthday, rests on the arm of a trainer in Jordan-Hare Stadium on July 19, 2021, in Auburn, Ala.

Since her first flight over Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2002, the bald eagle Spirit has flown alongside the University's golden eagles, which are designated War Eagles, in 46 Auburn Tigers football games. With her final flight scheduled for Saturday's game against Mississippi State, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution naming Spirit an Honorary War Eagle.

Spirit's last flight will occur approximately 20 minutes before kickoff. The eagle will then be honored during a halftime ceremony.

"Spirit has been a great icon for Auburn and for wildlife conservation," said Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education at the University's Southeastern Raptor Center. "We appreciate the board honoring her among our great tradition of War Eagles."

The University announced in July that the 25-year-old eagle would be retiring. The median life expectancy for bald eagles in captivity is 16.5 years, so veterinarians and SRC staff decided it would be best to retire her from stadium flights, though she will still make appearances during educational shows at the SRC.

"Spirit has been a great educational ambassador," Hopkins said. "She has developed some arthritis, but that is typical for her age and, overall, she is in very good health."

During her time with the University, Spirit has been a part of more than 1,800 SRC educational presentations to more than 105,000 attendees, in addition to her time supporting the Tigers.

Spirit was first brought to the SRC in the late 1990s after being discovered with an injured wing and beak in Florida. Due to permanent beak damage, she was found to be non-releasable and was treated. Soon afterwards, she began training for pregame festivities and made her first flight at Jordan-hare on Sept. 28, 2002.

Spirit is not the University's only bald eagle. Another named Independence, or Indy, has begun making pregame flights, having completed three this year, along with the golden eagle Aurea.

The SRC's mission is to rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned raptors, as well as educate the public and research raptor-related issues. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives the SRC permission to house, care for and showcase its non-releasable birds of prey in its education mission.

"Spirit has brought much attention to Auburn, the Southeastern Raptor Center and wildlife conservation," said Calvin Johnson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. "We are pleased she will continue to make an impat through appearances in educational presentations."

Trice Brown | Multimedia Editor

Trice Brown, senior in english language arts education, is the multimedia editor of The Auburn Plainsman. 


Share and discuss “Ahead of final flight, trustees name Spirit an Honorary War Eagle” on social media.