Rare peregrine falcons get new nesting home on top of Campanile

Mary Malec/Courtesy

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A pair of rare peregrine falcons has, once again, made the Campanile its home. This time, the birds will be nesting in a permanent nest box constructed by a local group of volunteers.

Mary Malec, a volunteer nest watcher at the East Bay Regional Park District, said the permanent nest box will help reduce the chance of eggs rolling off the slope of the Campanile, which is how the pair lost its first batch of eggs.

“This (permanent nesting box) is to keep them in and the (rain) water off. … We hope to increase the success of the peregrines,” Malec said.

Last April, these very same birds nested atop the Campanile for the first time, and they successfully hatched two falcon chicks, Fiat and Lux, in May. Campus installed bird streamers on a glass-enclosed balcony of Evans Hall after one of the chicks, Lux, became trapped in the balcony and died.

Malec said Fiat is “out there somewhere.” The volunteer group has attached a band on Fiat with a phone number.

“It’s common with urban raptors — they fly into buildings, mostly into windows, (since) a window reflects sky and clouds,” said Malec.

A once-endangered species, peregrine falcons are now slowly but surely regaining their numbers. Although their population has grown from two known nesting pairs in the 1970s to 300 nesting pairs now, they are still a fully protected species.

Malec said the nesting box has a base of 24 by 32 inches, a floor covered with gravel and a roof to protect the falcons from the sun and the rain. Adult peregrines are accustomed to nesting in the rain, but the volunteer group hopes to make the process more comfortable for the birds.

Peregrines were nearly extinct because of exposure to DDT, a chemical commonly found in insecticides, which thinned their eggshells. Thanks to the efforts of captive breeding, peregrine falcons were removed from the endangered species list 10 years ago, according to Malec.

“Who wouldn’t want to call UC Berkeley home?! We are, of course delighted to host our winged friends once again,” said campus spokesperson Roqua Montez in an email. “Their presence inspires a sense of community, serves as a learning experience and is simply exciting to watch.”

Contact Francesca Munsayac at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.