Free Bird: A reporter's close encounter with a falcon

Holly Zachariah

My car was parked in the lot next to the Dispatch's East Broad Street building and as I neared it … wait … What's that perched on the roof of my Honda? A peregrine falcon?

Why, yes. Yes it was.

My mind raced. Aren't there babies in a peregrine nest atop the Rhodes Tower next door?

Why, yes. Yes there are. Minus one.

I approached slowly. It didn't budge. The wide-eyed little thing just sat there looking slightly terrified—or maybe like it wanted to eat my face—bobbing its tiny head. We stared at one another.

A crowd gathered. I tweeted at experts and called sources—Help! I have a bird SOS—and people stopped to take selfies with the avian predator atop my sedan. It was all very bizarre.

I reached Donna Schwab with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, who monitors the Rhodes Tower falcons. I sent her photos. No blood. No injury. She said the baby—one of four chicks born six weeks earlier on the 41st floor ledge of the city's tallest building—probably was doing just what Mother Nature was telling it to do: fly. It takes a little practice.

It finally hopped/flew to a nearby construction pylon, rested there in Lynn Alley for a bit and then soared—mere inches above the whizzing traffic—down Third Street. Our encounter lasted about 90 minutes and seemed like forever.

Turns out, it was the fledgling's inaugural flight. So I witnessed the peregrine falcon equivalent of a toddler's first steps. And I was as nervous, and then elated, as any first-time mother watching it happen.