AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – Auburn University’s only bald eagle to have flown in this Auburn tradition, Spirit, is set to retire after her last stadium flight Saturday, Nov. 13.
She has flown alongside the university’s designated War Eagles, official golden eagles, since 2002.
Spirit’s last flight is set for Saturday, Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. when Auburn hosts Mississippi State. She will also be honored during the halftime ceremony.
Her retirement was announced in July after raptor center staff and veterinarians decided it was best for the bald eagle. Spirit is 25 years old — veterinarians and staff compared that to the median life expectancy of bald eagles in captivity, 16.5 years.
Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education at Auburn’s Southeastern Raptor Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine, shared more on the decision in a news release.
“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.”
Spirit was rescued in the late 1990s from Florida where she was found with an injured wing and beak. Her beak damage found her to be non-releasable and she was taken to train for Auburn’s pregame festivities before taking her first flight on Sept. 28, 2002.
She has flown during 46 football games and been a part of more than 1,800 raptor center educational presentations.
College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Calvin Johnson said although the bald eagle is retiring, she is still not out of the picture.
“Spirit has brought much attention to Auburn, the Southeastern Raptor Center and Wildlife Conservation,” Johnson said. “We are pleased she will continue to make an impact through appearances in educational presentations.”
Spirit will be passing the torch to a young bald eagle named Independence — or Indy — and Aurea, War Eagle VIII.
Spirit (left) will be passing the torch to a young bald eagle named Independence (right)— or Indy— and Aurea (middle), War Eagle VIII.
Auburn University provided the images featured in this report.