Two young peregrine falcons got their first taste of the great outdoors Wednesday morning near Rock City on Lookout Mountain - and one of them decided to check out whether he could "see 7 states."
The young birds of prey are named Apollo and Artemis, after the Greek gods of the sun and hunting, respectively. Their names were announced Wednesday morning after being selected following a week-long contest held by Rock City.
Apollo flew off into the wild around 6:30 Wednesday morning, and did not look back.
But it took twin sister Artemis a little more time as she finally left the hack box about 20 minutes later.
She did not go very far right away. She flew about 100 feet away and stood on the railing of Lover’s Leap. At one point, she was perched right on the "See 7 States" plaque.
It's a part of a restoration project to re-establish that breed to the Chattanooga area, which has been gone since 2008.
Apollo and Artemis spent the last three weeks learning how to fly and gaining strength.
The hope is for them to return and expand the rare breed that was once endangered.
"The nearest peregrines nesting here are in the Great Smoky Mountains and Atlanta," said John Stokes from Wings to Soar, the organization that leads the project.
"We're trying to fill in the gap of historical range and get them going again here. Seeing this bird back here. It will be really nice to know that we helped them out."
Stokes says the two birds will likely migrate to Central and South America for the next two or three years.
If they survive, there’s a strong chance they will come back to the Chattanooga area
The last time there was a peregrine falcon release here was in 2017, but they did not return.
This is the ninth peregrine release. Artemis and Apollo will bring the total number of birds set free to 16.