WAR EAGLE WEEK: Spirit Practices Before the First Home Game Sept. 8
It’s one of the oldest traditions at Auburn University. When that majestic eagle flies over Jordan Hare stadium. It’s something that draws everyone in. Not just football fans.
“People tell us that they have bought tickets to come to Auburn football games just to see one of the eagles fly. They come see the eagle fly and then leave,” said Rhett LaPorte, Raptor Specialist at the Southeastern Raptor Center.
Spirit, their bald eagle, has taken over the full role after her golden eagle partner Nova, was diagnosed with a heart condition.
Nova has now been sidelined and not flying in anymore games.
“Nova’s heart isn’t perfect so he won’t be flying this year. Spirit started flying in 2002, way before Nova. So, she will continue flying this year,” said Andrew Hopkins, Asst. Director Raptor Training & Education.
The raptor handlers practice with Spirit in the stadium Monday-Friday, months before the first home game to get her ready.
But, game days with thousands of people, do not phase her. She’s just looking for her snack.
“On game day, it’s just another practice for her. It just happens that 90,000 people are watching. We do about 300 shows a year, so she’s constantly around people. You think the stadium is loud, go to a kindergarten class. It’s the same volume. She’s just used to being around people,” said Hopkins.
And Spirit is getting the job done. In the games that Spirit has flown before, the football team’s win percentage is 81%. A record of 30 wins and only 7 loses since 2002.
But, the Raptor Center is looking for Spirit’s next partner, so they can split up the fly time.
“Eagles belong to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. So, we never know when we are going to get one, but they know we are always looking and we would really like one of them here in Auburn,” said Hopkins.