Auburn University retired its famed golden eagle Nova, War Eagle VII, during today’s Board of Trustees meeting and named golden eagle Aurea as War Eagle VIII. A ceremony marking the transition will be held at halftime of the Nov. 23 football game with Samford University.
“Nova has brought much attention to wildlife conservation and is treasured by the Auburn Family and countless fans and conservationists across the country,” Interim President Jay Gogue said.
Twenty-year-old Nova has been sidelined from pregame flights since 2017 due to cardiomyopathy, a chronic disease of the heart. An echocardiogram in October revealed his heart condition had worsened, but veterinarians are adjusting the medication to manage his condition.
Nova will continue to be named War Eagle VII but Aurea, as War Eagle VIII, will serve as the current, official War Eagle for the university.
“The plan to retire Nova and name Aurea was already underway when we received the test results,” said Calvin Johnson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We will take every precaution with Nova, who has been an instrumental part of our Southeastern Raptor Center’s educational programs, even since being sidelined from flying at games.”
Nova was hatched in 1999 at the Montgomery Zoo and was non-releasable due to human imprinting. He came to Auburn in 2000, made his first pregame flight at the Kentucky game in 2004 and was designated War Eagle VII in 2006. He made 58 pregame flights and has appeared in almost 2,000 educational programs at the raptor center and at schools and conservation events around the Southeast.
“Nova will be mostly restricted to presentations at the raptor center,” said Dr. Seth Oster, faculty avian veterinarian. “We will keep him in low-stress situations, either sitting on a perch or sitting on a glove. We have an amphitheater for presentations to small groups.”
In games following his flights, the Auburn football team compiled a 44-14 record. During his reign as War Eagle VII, Auburn went 107-59 overall and played in two national championship games, winning the 2010 title.
Aurea, a 5-year-old female, becomes Auburn’s eighth official War Eagle to carry on the storied tradition of golden eagles at Auburn Tiger football games, a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s. Auburn’s team name is Tigers, but the battle cry is “War Eagle.”
“Aurea actually made her stadium flight debut last season prior to the Liberty game and has flown at most of our home games this season,” said Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education. “Spirit, our 23-year-old bald eagle, will continue to do pregame flights as well. We also have a new bald eagle, Indy, that we may train to fly at games in the future, but Auburn’s War Eagle birds are always golden eagles.”
Aurea was brought to the raptor center in 2016 after being found near Selma with an injury to her right wing. Auburn veterinarians brought her back to good health, but the aftermath of the injury causes her to have more drag during flights.
“Her flight stamina isn’t quite good enough for her to be released into the wild, but it doesn’t affect her flying in the stadium because she’s not chasing a live animal,” Hopkins said.
Aurea has a 6.5-foot wingspan and weighs 8 pounds while, in comparison, male Nova has a 6-foot wingspan and weighs 7 pounds. “This size difference is normal because female eagles are normally about 30 percent larger than the males,” Hopkins said.
The Southeastern Raptor Center will hold a special celebration for Nova and Aurea at its Football, Fans and Feathers show Nov. 29 at 4 p.m. It will be held at the center’s 350-seat Edgar B. Carter Educational Amphitheater at 1350 Pratt-Carden Drive off Shug Jordan Parkway. More information about Football, Fans and Feathers is available on the show’s webpage.
The center’s mission is to rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned raptors and to educate the public about their role and importance and to research raptor-related issues. The center, a division of the Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is given permission by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to house, care for and showcase birds of prey in its educational mission.
More information about War Eagle VIII is available at auburn.edu/wareagle.