‘Hatching could be happening as we speak’: Campanile falcon chicks to join campus community

Mary Malec/Courtesy

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After hosting thousands of newly admitted students Saturday during Cal Day festivities, UC Berkeley will soon welcome the latest additions to the campus community: a clutch of peregrine falcon eggs currently incubating in a nest on the Campanile, according to East Bay Regional Park District volunteer nest monitor Mary Malec.

Malec had originally estimated that the chicks would hatch on Cal Day, based on her observations of the adult peregrine falcons caring for the eggs. As of her latest visit, however, there were no signs of hatching.

“We don’t have a direct view of the nest box so we rely on their behavior to inform us of what’s happening. … As of noon Sunday, there is not yet an indication of hatch,” Malec said in an email.

The falcons could be hatching at any moment, according to Doug Bell, the wildlife program manager at the East Bay Regional Park District. Bell said peregrine falcon eggs typically take about 32 days to hatch from the start of the incubation period and estimated that the chicks would be hatching in a matter of days.

“It’s not an exact science, so you estimate it, give or take a couple days,” Bell said. “Hatching could be happening as we speak.”

But once the chicks hatch, they face many dangers from the outside world, particularly in an urban environment like Berkeley, Bell said.

“When (the chicks) fledge from the Campanile, they could wind up anywhere — they could wind up on a rooftop, they could wind up on a downtown city street where they are exposed to people and animals that could cause them harm,” Bell added.

Last year, only one out of two peregrine falcon chicks survived the fledging period, Bell said. The campus community settled on the names Fiat and Lux for the birds through a Facebook survey. Lux died in July when she flew into a window on the 10th floor of Evans Hall.

Now, streamers have been installed in those very windows to prevent birds from striking them in the future, according to Malec.

“The streamers break up the reflection of the window surface and make the window a visible surface to prevent birds from flying into them — not just the peregrine fledglings, but they also prevent bird strikes from other birds flying across campus,” Malec said in the email.

Nearly two decades ago, peregrine falcons were considered an endangered species. The endangered status was only lifted in 1999, when populations recovered from losses wrought by pesticide use in the 1950s and 1960s.

“When I think back to the late 1960s when they were almost gone — almost extinct in California — I never would have dreamed that we would see them again,” Bell added. “It’s a miracle that we have them back.”

Contact Miyako Iwata at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalmiyako.