Southeastern Raptor Center preps for beloved Auburn eagle flight tradition

Updated: Sep. 6, 2019 at 11:08 PM EDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WTVM) -The Southeastern Raptor Center is prepping for this football season’s pregame eagle flights.

Many students across the campus of Auburn University already have their plans for Saturday's game.

“[We’re] just tailgating and eating a lot of food and hanging out,” Sam McManus, an Auburn fan, said.

As the students are preparing, so is the Southeastern Raptor Center.

They are the ones responsible for the eagles who fly before every home football game, and they have a new eagle this year.

“This is Aurea,” Andrew Hopkins, of the Southeastern Raptor Center, said. “She’s an approximately 5-year-old golden eagle.

With her six-and-a-half foot wingspan, Aurea is ready to kick off the football season and continue the Auburn tradition of the pregame flight.

Auburn fans love this tradition. “You just know it’s time for football when you see that eagle fly,” Mark McManus, an Auburn fan, said.

Anna Hart, a junior at Auburn, agreed. “It just gives me chills seeing the eagle fly around,” she said.

For more than 100 years, eagles have been associated with Auburn football, but the tradition of the eagle flight is much more recent.

“Lots of people think there’s been eagle flights for decades, but the tradition didn’t start until the year 2000,” Hopkins said.

Aurea has a counterpart, a 23-year-old bald eagle named Spirit, who will also join her at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

But the choice of who makes the famous flight will not be made until about an hour before Auburn takes on Tulane University.

“We look at their game face to see who’s in the mood, who’s responsive for what we’re wanting to do, who’s ready to be flown at the game," Hopkins said. "It’s all about their attitude.”

Though these eagles are a key part of Auburn football, the Raptor Center also rehabilitates all types of birds of prey and hopes to promote wildlife conservation through the eagle flight and their other educational programs.

The Southeastern Raptor Center is open to the public on Fridays before home football games for a flight show and to let people meet these famous birds.

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