A young peregrine falcon rode two elevators to freedom after becoming trapped in a rooftop air-conditioning enclosure in downtown Baltimore.
The fledgling falcon, one of four born this spring on a 33rd-floor ledge of the USF&G building, was trying his wings yesterday when he flew into the two-story enclosure atop the Charles Center South office tower.
Once inside, said John Barber, USF&G's resident ornithologist, "he has to fly almost vertical" to get out. "But he was too young to have enough lift to get out of the hole."
He was found by maintenance workers, who called Barber.
Barber, protected by a falconer's glove, found the bird sitting on a pipe. As he approached, the falcon latched onto him immediately. Barber then carried the bird on his arm, down the building's elevator and across Lombard Street just as the lunchtime rush was ending.
It "caused quite a stir," he said.
Barber carried the bird up to the USF&G building's 33rd floor on the elevator and tossed him back out onto the ledge where he was born.
"It was important to get him up to a high spot so he could start over with a fresh flight," he said.
The fledglings -- three males and a female -- hatched in April, the offspring of longtime USF&G residents Blythe and Beauregard.
The young birds will remain in the downtown area, learning to fly, while their parents continue to provide them with food. But they have been chased by their parents from the nest where they were born, so that they are "forced to fly for every meal," Barber said.
Sometime next month, they will fly off to find their own food, mates and nesting sites.
Wiped out east of the Mississippi by pesticide poisoning, peregrines have been making a remarkable comeback since being reintroduced after the 1972 ban on DDT.
They are still listed as endangered, but 90 pairs are now known to be nesting east of the Mississippi.
Their success in Baltimore has come despite numerous fatal encounters with their urban environment since 1977. Young birds have fallen to the street and crashed into highly reflective windows. Others have been trapped by roofing tar and poisoned by strychnine-contaminated pigeons.