AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s the end of an era for Auburn football fans. Friday, Auburn University announced it is officially retiring Nova (War Eagle VII), its famed golden eagle.
Hatched at the Montgomery Zoo in 1999, Nova was never viable for release into the wild due to human imprinting. He came to Auburn in 2000 where, if he could talk, he would have a story to tell.
In 2004, he made his first pregame flight at the Kentucky game. Two years later he earned the title War Eagle VII.
Over the next decade, he wowed crowds during 58 pregame flights and made nearly 2,000 educational program appearances at the Southeastern Raptor Center and at schools and conservation events around the Southeast.
The Auburn Tigers fared well when Nova took flight, racking up a 44-14 record in those games. Overall, the team went 107-59 and played for two national championships, winning one, during Nova’s reign.
While Nova’s retirement was made official during the Auburn University Board of Trustees meeting Friday, the eagle hadn’t seen much action in recent years. Nova, 20, hasn’t flown around the stadium and its crowd of nearly 90,000 since the 2017 football season.
The majestic raptor’s health is the reason he’s been sidelined. Nova has cardiomyopathy, a chronic heart disease that is getting progressively worse, though medications help manage the condition.
He’ll live out his days in a calm setting at the Raptor Center where he’ll be shared with small groups during various presentations.
Rising to officially take Nova’s place for pre-game flights around Jordan Hare Stadium is Aurea (War Eagle VIII), a 5-year-old golden eagle that continues the tradition started back in the late 1800s.
She came to the Southeastern Raptor Center in 2016 after being found near Selma. She had an injury to her wing, but despite being nursed back to health, the injury created a situation that would limit her flight stamina in the wild, preventing her release.
Aurea is already well versed in flights around Jordan Hare, having started in 2018. She’s now the eagle seen during most home game flights, though Auburn’s 23-year-old bald eagle, Spirit, is more than capable of completing the task.
A ceremony to mark the change from Nova to Aurea will be held during Saturday’s halftime event in the game against Samford University.
The Southeastern Raptor Center will hold a special celebration for Nova and Aurea at its Football, Fans and Feathers show on Nov. 29 at the center’s 350-seat amphitheater on Pratt-Carden Drive, located off Shug Jordan Parkway. CLICK HERE for details.