BOWLING GREEN — When J. Scott Butterworth lifted a fluffy white 3-week-old peregrine falcon from a brown box Tuesday, the assembled crowd let out a collective "awwww."
This was one cute chick. Actually, there were four.
The peregrine falcons that first nested in the clock tower atop the Wood County courthouse last year hatched four females -- each one of which was carefully marked with an identifying leg band by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife.
One by one, the chicks squawked and cried as Mr. Butterworth, wildlife management supervisor with the department's district office in Findlay, held them, and Jennifer Norris, a state wildlife biologist in charge of the state's peregrine falcon recovery program, drew blood samples and wrapped the bands around their little legs.
Children from nearby Ridge Elementary School looked concerned as the first chick squirmed and squawked, but Ms. Norris assured them it was not in pain.
"It's a wild animal, and it's not used to being held," she told them.
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Eight-year-old Zoie Metzger was the first volunteer selected to squeeze the gadget that secured the band to the chick's leg. She was greeted with admiration and high-fives as she rejoined her classmates.
"I thought they would be smaller," Zoie said of the chicks, which look considerably larger than the kind of chick that hatches from a chicken's egg.
Ms. Norris said the birds are more fluff than fat.
The chicks weigh maybe two-thirds of a pound. Adult female peregrines reach about two pounds, and the males just a pound and a half, she said.
The Wood County peregrines are among 36 known pairs in Ohio, although only 26 are believed to have nested this year, Ms. Norris said.
Natural resources department officials planned to band the peregrine chicks hatched at the University of Toledo tower and atop the Bank One building in Lima, Ohio, next week.
The peregrines based at the Commodore Perry in downtown Toledo did not have chicks this year.
Mr. Butterworth said it appears that one of the chicks hatched last year in Bowling Green is now making its home in the clock tower of the Ottawa County courthouse in Port Clinton, although it is too young to lay eggs.
Peregrines usually begin breeding at about 2 years of age and generally mate for life, returning each year to the same area to nest.
In Bowling Green, Tuesday morning's banding event attracted a large crowd of residents and county employees who have been watching the birds since they moved to town in October, 2010.
Bird enthusiast Amy Potter said she watched the nesting pair fly around all winter and saw what she believes was one of their offspring from last year come for a four or five-week visit.
"They are just amazing birds," Ms. Potter said of the peregrines. "It's just something special to have a pair of nesting peregrines calling our beautiful stone courthouse home."
Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter, who has a nice view of the falcon's nest from the fifth floor of the county office building, said it's fun to watch them.
"Even the peregrines want to live in Wood County," he quipped.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6129.