Poppy, Sequoia, Redwood: Campanile falcons named after state plants

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The three peregrine falcon chicks living atop the Campanile have been given names, which were chosen via an online contest over the last week.

Out of six finalist submissions, voters ultimately chose to name the hatchlings Poppy, Redwood and Sequoia, after California’s state flower and trees. The contest ended Tuesday after two rounds of voting and was held by Cal Falcons, a group of six scientists that was formed in 2017 to observe the nest after two falcons made the tower their home.

“It’s really just kind of a fun little thing to do that gets people excited about the birds,” said Sean Peterson, social media director for Cal Falcons and a campus graduate student in the environmental science, policy and management department. “One of our main goals as an organization is to drive excitement behind wildlife, and this is something that really gets people excited.”

Among the final suggestions were the protagonists of the “Harry Potter” series, famous women of UC Berkeley, campus libraries, Bay Area mountain peaks and pioneering historical figures of the medical field.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, however, voters chose to steer clear of naming the chicks in honor of some of the great figures of medical history, such as Hippocrates, Edward Jenner and Florence Nightingale. Some said it may be that the falcons have offered an escape from the present day world of COVID-19, according to Peterson.

“It makes sense that people have gotten into the falcons recently as a diversion from everything going on — the falcons don’t know there’s a pandemic happening,” said campus molecular and cell biology graduate student Tess Linden, who submitted the winning names. “People voted for these names because they have nothing to do with anything serious or maybe people just like the sound of them.”

This year’s contest was the fourth contest since the founding of Cal Falcons and drew about 400 participants — double the number of last year’s. Submissions were conducted across multiple platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as directed via email.

Although the falcon’s following is mostly localized to the campus and surrounding areas, submissions were received from around the world, with more than 45 countries represented.

Peterson said it is expected that the chicks will begin peaking over the edge of the Campanile and preparing to take their first flights within the next week and a half. During the crucial first days of this process, a volunteer effort dubbed “fledge week” will take place to help make sure that conditions are as safe for the birds as possible.

“The community that’s built up around these birds has been absolutely mind-blowing,” Peterson said. “It’s very uplifting to see this community coalesce around wildlife in their own neighborhood.”

Contact Jacob Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.