Good news from the Heart of Dixie: Spirit, the winged mascot for Auburn, is doing well after the eagle flew beak-first into a luxury box window at Jordan-Hare Stadium before the Tigers' 41-34 win over Mississippi State last weekend.
Auburn's golden eagle gracefully circles the stadium before each home football game and is supposed to land at midfield as an unwavering icon of the Auburn Spirit, according to the school website. The eagle weighs a little more than six pounds and has a wing span of more than six feet. The tradition goes back to the early 2000's.
Jamie Bellah, director of Auburn's Southeastern Raptor Center, tells the Opelika-Auburn News they'll never know why the bird decided to go on a kamikaze mission.
"Our routine was very normal on that game day as we worked up to the pre-game flight," Bellah said. "We got the signal to open the box (from which Spirit is released) as we normally do."
Even though the birds are trained often during the week before game day, once out of the box they have freedom to make a decision on which flight plan to take. “Normally, they don't do something like what Spirit did. Why he took a right turn, I don't know, unless he saw a reflection of himself in the Plexiglas,” Bellah said.
After flying in circles above the football stadium and then colliding with the stadium window, the bald eagle showed true heart by descending to his waiting handler on the field.
Following a physical and blood tests, the eagle was determined to have no problems. (Not even a concussion.) The bird is "day to day," as the sports cliche goes.
The American bald eagle mascot arrived at the raptor center 13 years ago after experiencing major injuries to his wings and beak in Florida. The damage to Spirit’s beak was so serious that all these years later the raptor still can't adequately feed itself in the untamed wild, making it non-releasable.
Bellah said Spirit won't be grounded over the birdbrain decision, flying again over Auburn's next home game on Sept. 24 against Florida Atlantic.