Meet UC Berkeley’s peregrine falcon babies: Californium, Lawrencium and Berkelium

Mary Malec/Courtesy

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Once again, lucky pedestrians might catch a glimpse of peregrine falcon chicks flying around the Campanile, and they will now be able to say their names — Californium, Berkelium and Lawrencium.

The three chicks hatched mid-April, and the runner-up names were Cam, Pan and Ile, according to campus spokesperson Roqua Montez. He added that Friday was the first day of “fledgewatch,” which is a week when volunteers will be on standby to watch the chicks take their first flights and make sure they are safe.

This is not the first time peregrine falcons have decided to use the Campanile as a nesting site. In 2017, a pair of falcons nested on the Campanile and had two chicks, Fiat and Lux. Bird streamers were installed on the windows of Evans Hall after one of the chicks, Lux, flew into a window and died.

It’s hard losing one of them,” said Mary Malec, East Bay Regional Park District volunteer and ornithologist.

Windows reflect light from the sky and clouds, making them look like continuations of the sky, which is why birds often fly into them, according to Malec. Window strikes are a leading cause of bird deaths, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with an estimated average of 676,500,000 deaths annually.

According to Malec, one of the male chicks has already “fledged,” or taken his first flight. As of press time, the other two chicks have yet to fledge.

When they fly for the first time, they fly very well,” Malec said. “Their landings are very clumsy, and that’s what gets them in trouble. … They need a fairly big landing to land on.

Peregrine falcons are a “marvelous success story,” according to Doug Bell, wildlife program manager at the East Bay Regional Park District — about 50 years ago, peregrines nearly went extinct because of the use of pesticide DDT, which thinned their eggshells and led to a rapid decline in numbers.

DDT usage was restricted in the 1970s, with the Environmental Protection Agency issuing a cancellation order in 1972.

“The peregrines represent a physical embodiment of our society’s commitment to improving the environment in which we, and many non-human species, live,” said Ignacio Chapela, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, or ESPM, in an email. “The return of the peregrine falcons shows how these policies can work, and also signals the comeback of their prey species.”

ESPM chair George Roderick said the falcons are a “symbol for a healthy ecosystem” and that the existence of the falcons shows that UC Berkeley is at a crossroads between urban and natural environments.

Should any passers-by find a chick on the ground, Bell recommended they call him at 510-520-3945, Malec at 510-332-7513 or UCPD at 510-642-3333, because UCPD has been alerted of the falcon situation. There are also flyers around the Campanile with Malec and Bell’s contact information.

Bell also recommended that the person who reports the downed chick remain nearby to make sure no animals or other passers-by interfere with the baby falcon.

It’s amazing to me that it took until 2017 for (the falcons) to realize the Campanile was a great place to nest. … It’s a great thing that they came back a second year,” said Golden Gate Raptor Observatory Director Allen Fish. “As long as it doesn’t get too messed up by visitors to the tower or by drones being flown by, it might be a nest site that stays for a long time.”

Sakura Cannestra is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.