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Aggressive behavior of Falcons will pass, wildlife officials say

To the peregrine falcons living there, the Ironton-Russell Bridge is just a big nest that needs protecting.

At least one citizen has reported being attacked by the two adult birds nesting there. Because of this, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Lawrence County Highway Maintenance Facility has closed the sidewalk temporarily to all pedestrians.

One Ironton woman, who wished to remain unnamed, was attacked by a bird before Memorial Day and said she felt like she was in the Alfred Hitchcock movie as the bird dug its talons into her head and back.

"You can’t even walk across the bridge without being attacked," she said. "It just swooped down and beat me across the bridge."

She did not go to the hospital for treatment and says everyone she told just laughed at her.

"They have been showing some aggressive behavior," said Jim Hill, assistant wildlife management supervisor with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife District Four. "We put up some Mylar flagging (a reflective ribbon) to discourage diving and also posted signs on both ends of the bridge a couple of weeks ago."

The aggressive behavior is caused by the fact that the four young birds are learning to fly, or fledgling, Dave Scott, Ohio Division of Wildlife peregrine falcon project coordinator, said.

"If we took measures to remove them now, they would fledge prematurely and end up in the river," Scott said. "The Division of Wildlife has no plans to remove them at this time.

"After they fledge, the aggressive behavior will wane. It should be completely gone by the end of June."

Scott said the young will disperse once they learn to fly and the parents will not be so aggressive because they will not be as tied to the nest. The adults tend to return to the same vicinity each year for nesting, Scott said.

In May, Scott tagged the four newborn birds and took blood samples. In May of last year, the falcons spawned three offspring at the same location.

Peregrine falcons were declared a national endangered species in 1970 and removed from the list in 1999 because the number of paired falcons increased from no pairs east of the Mississippi in 1960 to 200 pairs in 1999. However, they are once again on the endangered species list in Ohio.

Peregrines are the fastest birds in the world and have a three to three and a half foot wing span. They weigh less than two pounds, but grow to be 15 to 21 inches in height. Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune