Peregrine falcons banded and named

Published 9:54 am Friday, May 21, 2010

Three new peregrine falcons were introduced, named and banded Thursday morning at the park pavilion just off of the Ironton-Russell Bridge, with about four dozen people watching.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources took the chicks out of their nest to place small bands on their legs as identification. They do this to track and protect the animal for a period of time after it is no longer considered endangered.

“They were endangered and we had zero peregrine falcons in Ohio,” said Jenny Norris, ODNR wildlife research biologist. “Now there are 35 territorial pairs and seven additional singles.”

“Honor” and “Patience,” the two female chicks, and “Sergeant,” the lone male, appeared older than Norris had expected. Originally estimated at three weeks old, Norris said they look closer to 24 days old.

Norris said the banding is safe for the chicks because their legs grow in length, but not in diameter. The leg size is also the way to tell the sex of the chick, as the female’s leg diameter will be larger than the male’s. In addition to the banding, Norris also did blood work on the chicks.

“We take blood samples so that if a bird becomes sick, we can determine potential causes,” Norris said.

After the work was finished on the chicks, they were returned to their nest where they are expected to stay for about four more weeks.

“They’ll fledge in about a month,” said Chris Smith, ODNR wildlife area supervisor. “Typically it’s at eight weeks.”

Denise Fraley, language arts teacher at Rock Hill Middle School, brought 11 students to watch the event. She has attended this event with students for the past four years. Fraley said this year it almost didn’t happen.

“I didn’t think I could do it because of the way the classes are scheduled this year,” Fraley said. “The students came to me. It’s because of their desire that we’re here in the first place.”

For Fraley’s class to attend the event, they did reports, reading and observed nests from a live webcam to learn more about the birds before they went, all in addition to regular school work.

Fraley said they enjoyed watching the webcam the most because they can observe anything from the eggs hatching, watching them eat, and anything else that happens.

“We can even watch them poop,” said Allison Schwab, eighth grade Rock Hill Middle School student. “I liked watching them on the camera.”

Jack Goodwin, also an eighth grade student in Fraley’s class, said he is surprised by how they look.

“They’re bigger than what I expected,” Goodwin said. “I’ve seen pictures, but never up close. They look different from the way their parents look.”

Auretta Hensley, 43, of Ironton, took her three children to the event. As part of their home-school studies, the children have been learning about birds. Hensley said the peregrine falcon is the favorite of her son Seth, 11.

“I like the way their heads are shaped and their beaks,” Seth said. “I like that they can go really fast.”

Steve and Sharon Sweeney from Ashland, Ky., are fans of the peregrine falcon.

“We’re birders,” Steve Sweeney said. “I’ve seen them before. They look so elegant and ferocious.”

“We’ve been birding since 1989,” Sweeney said. “You almost have to have someone introduce you to it. You see them and you get hooked.”