#039;Lucy#039; gives birth to two falcons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 4, 2004

When it comes to having babies, the Ironton-Russell Bridge must be a lucky location.

"Lucy," Ironton's annual winged visitor, gave birth to at least two healthy peregrine falcons last week in her nesting spot beneath the bridge deck. The new mother and her male, partner, unofficially named "Outlaw," have become visitors to Lawrence County each year to raise their young.

"At this point in time, we know for sure that two chicks have hatched," said Chris Smith, wildlife area supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife's Cooper Hollow area. "One egg has been pushed off to the side (it will probably not hatch) and I was unable to see the fourth egg at that time."

Email newsletter signup

"Lucy," a 6-year-old falcon that was born in Toronto, Canada, has been a visitor to the bridge for several years. It is believed that the male bird is also the same falcon that visits each year, Smith said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation will keep the pedestrian sidewalk closed for the summer to ensure that no one is endangered because the falcons get aggressive while they raise their young.

ODNR put up a nesting box

on the other side of the bridge last year to help make the sidewalk more safe but the falcons apparently prefer to nest between one of the piers and the deck on the Kentucky side of the span.

"Now that the eggs have hatched, the female came out and started swooping at me," Smith said. "The male also began to get aggressive. Now that they have hatched, the aggressive behavior has picked up."

Wildlife officials will return later this month to band the newborns, Smith said.

Typically, the falcons stay for the summer while the young falcons learn to fly. By August or September, the falcons usually leave the general nesting area, although it is unknown exactly where they go, Smith said.

Peregrine falcons were declared a national endangered species in 1970 but removed from the list in 1999. However, the species is still considered an endangered species in Ohio.

The birds typically nest on rock or cliff ledges but Ohio's lack of suitable locations mean that tall structures such as skyscrapers, bridges and smokestacks become substitute nests.

One of the fastest birds in the world, peregrine falcons can dive at speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour. Each bird has a three to three-and-a-half-foot wing span. They typically weigh less than three pounds but grow to be 15 to 21 inches in height. Peregrines have been known to live as long as 15 years.