Auburn University's Bald Eagle Set to Retire from Pre-Game Flights After 18 Years
After nearly two decades of service, Auburn University's beloved bald eagle is headed for retirement.
Spirit will celebrate her 25th birthday with one more pre-game flight around Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall.
The median life expectancy for bald eagles in captivity is 16.5 years. At nearly 25 years of age, raptor center staff and veterinarians decided that it would be best for Spirit to put her high-flying days behind her.
"Spirit has served the Auburn family well for the last 18 years, and we feel it is time to pass the reigns and let her enjoy retirement as an educational ambassador," Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education, said in a news release. "She has developed some arthritis, but that is typical for her age and, overall, she is in very good health. As she retires, a younger bald eagle named Independence will debut during pregame flights this fall at Jordan-Hare alongside Aurea."
A young female bald eagle named Independence, or "Indy," is set to take over the reins. She came to Auburn's Southeastern Raptor Center from a Florida rehabilitation center as a baby with an injured wing in 2018. Although her wing healed, she imprinted on people during her time in rehab and therefore, is non-releasable. Indy will make Auburn history as only the second bald eagle to participate in home pregame festivities.
Spirit was brought to Auburn in the late 90s after being discovered in Florida with an injured wing and beak. She was treated, but due to her permanent beak damage, she found to be non-releasable. Spirit made her first Jordan-Hare Stadium flight on September 28, 2002.
In addition to her time spent bolstering the Tigers, Spirit serves as a representative for wildlife conservation. She has participated in more than 1,800 raptor center educational presentations, touching the lives of more than 105,000 attendees.
Auburn fans will be able to see her soar one last time when Auburn hosts Mississippi State on Saturday, November 13.
"I know our fans will give Spirit a great send-off when she makes her final stadium flight this fall," College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Calvin Johnson said in a release. "For almost two decades, she has been an important part of Auburn tradition, and she has served as an ambassador to help thousands of people become better acquainted with her species. We all wish her well in her upcoming retirement and look forward to seeing her at educational presentations and visiting her at the Southeastern Raptor Center."