Auburn University retired its famed golden eagle Nova — War Eagle VII — during Friday’s board of trustees meeting and named golden eagle Aurea as War Eagle VIII.
A transition ceremony will be held at halftime of Saturday’s 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 War Eagle VII, but Aurea, as War Eagle VIII, will take over as the 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 nonreleasable 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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
The Southeastern Raptor Center will hold a special celebration for Nova and Aurea at its Football, Fans and Feathers show at 4 p.m. Nov. 29 at 1350 Pratt-Carden Drive, off Shug Jordan Parkway.
Read more about War Eagle VIII at auburn.edu/wareagle.