Saturday afternoon, 90,000 screaming fans will be able to witness one of the nation’s most unique traditions, the flight of the War Eagle.
“The very first free flight of an eagle happened in the year 2000,” Assistant Director South Eastern Raptor Center Marrianne Hudson said. “Although an eagle has been associated with us for a long time, the free flight tradition started fairly recently.”
It’s hard to walk the campus of Auburn and not hear ‘War Eagle’ around every corner. A battle cry that was adopted long ago even though their mascot is a tiger. Rumor has it ‘War Eagle’ originated when a surviving eagle was found on a deadly battle field. That eagle was brought to a football game against the Georgia Bulldogs and actually took an unexpected flight. When asked what that bird was, the response was that it was a war eagle and the rest, as they say, is history. These days it takes lots of training to get them to fly where they want.
“Eagles are top of the line predators, we train our birds to come to us for a food reward,” Hudson said. “They are very food motivated, they don’t respond to affection or praise but they do respond to food.”
Since 1986 an eagle named “Tiger” was the official War Eagle until last month when it died at the age of 34. Tomorrow’s game will mark the beginning of a new era of War Eagle but he’s already become friendly with the students.
“We have students come to us from all over the country and most of them have heard of our War Eagle tradition,” Hudson said. “Our eagle attends a lot of events so that everyone here on campus gets to know their neighbor the War Eagle.”