“Spirit” to retire from pre-game eagle flights at end of football season

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 11:51 PM EDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WTVM) - A time-honored tradition will be retuning to Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall, but with it will be a farewell tour for one of Auburn University’s non-human ambassadors.

The school’s raptor center announced that “Spirit”, the bald eagle that has acted as War Eagle VIII since 2002, will be retiring from the pre-game flight ceremony at the end of the football season.

She spent Monday morning doing practice flights at the stadium before the school made the announcement.

“It happens to be the 25th birthday of Spirit, our bald eagle that you just saw fly,”

said Andrew Hopkins of the Raptor Center. “After closely evaluating Spirit, we’ve decided that this is her year to retire.”

Hopkins also cited arthritis setting in, which is not unusual for eagles of her age. He also announced her replacement.

“We’re excited about the fact she has an understudy that’s coming along and doing an incredible job,” Hopkins said.

“Independence”, who will take over in 2022, also made practice flights on Monday.

“Spirit”, who was the first bald eagle to take the pre-game ceremonial role that had been traditionally performed by golden eagles, has taken wing before 45 games at Jordan-Hare Stadium over the past 18 seasons.

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