Auburn retires 20-year-old golden eagle mascot Nova

Auburn is retiring its 20-year-old golden eagle mascot two years after it was grounded from flying at football games because of heart disease.

A university statement issued Friday said the bird named Nova is being replaced by another golden eagle named Aurea that will become War Eagle VIII.

A ceremony marking the transition is planned for Auburn's home game against Samford on Saturday. Nova has been sidelined since 2017 after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which is a chronic heart disease.

Nova made nearly 58 pregame flights since its debut in 2004, with the Tigers going 44-14 in those games. Veterinarian Seth Oster said in a statement that Nova will mostly be restricted to presentations at the university's raptor center.

Aurea is a 5-year-old female with a more than 6.5-foot wingspan. Aurea was brought to the raptor center in 2016 with an injured wing.

"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," said Andrew Hopkins, assistant director of raptor training and education at Auburn.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.