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, three 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 Eagles Tiger (War Eagle VI), Nova (War Eagle VII) and Spirit (a Bald Eagle) are the eagles who have inspired football fans with their graceful flights over Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Tiger was hatched in captivity in 1980 and came to live at Auburn University in 1986. A frequent sideline fixture, she made her first free flight at the Wyoming game on Aug. 31, 2000. Since then, she has flown prior to many games as well as at educational programs and the 2002 Winter Olympics. At the Georgia game in November 2006, Tiger made her last stadium flight and is now “retired.” A halftime ceremony at that game recognized her contributions to the Auburn community and to the USF&WS conservation mission.
Golden Eagle Nova was then inaugurated as War Eagle VII. Tiger will continue to appear at some educational presentations and is doing well despite a diagnosis of skin cancer in 2006. Tiger has already outlived the average lifespan for a Golden Eagle. 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 looks similar to Tiger but has a smaller stature because he is a male. Like Tiger, 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.
In the 1970’s, a group from Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine began an intensive effort to treat and rehabilitate injured raptors. This initiative led to the creation of what is now known as the Southeastern Raptor Center. The SRC is the oldest and only medical and surgical wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Southeast dedicated solely to raptors.
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.
The Southeastern Raptor Center’s mission is to rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned raptors, educate the public about their role and importance, and to research raptor-related issues.
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.
You can support SRC by purchasing SRC merchandise at the AU Bookstore or through SRC’s website. Here, you can also contribute to SRC birds through the Adopt-A-Raptor program. This year, SRC will have public raptor shows which will include an eagle flight. These presentations are at the SRC Amphitheatre at 4:00 p.m. each Friday before home games. The $5 admission is payable at the gate.
For more information or to inquire about scheduling an educational program for your group, call 844- 6943 or visit www.auburn.edu/raptor.