UC Berkeley’s resident peregrine falcons welcome 3 chicks amid pandemic

Image of baby falcon
Cal Falcons/Courtesy
Cal Falcons has had three webcams installed in the Campanile since 2018, allowing individuals to watch the falcon nest within the tower. Starting April 17, the resident falcons, Annie and Grinnell, welcomed their chicks into the world.

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UC Berkeley’s resident peregrine falcons Annie and Grinnell started to welcome their chicks into the world April 17 after more than a month of careful incubation. An egg had pipped, or cracked, and Annie clucked to them, encouraging them to keep going. The bells of the Campanile rang loud and clear from below the nest as if celebrating the arrival of the hatchlings.

Over the next 24 hours, two eggs broke, revealing two balls of gray-white fluff squeaking desperately for a chunk of a hapless pigeon that Grinnell had brought back for the nest. Before dawn on the third day, Monday, a third egg hatched, leaving one last egg forlorn.

Sean Peterson, a campus doctoral student who runs the Cal Falcons social media project, does not expect the final egg to be viable. If it cracks, Annie and Grinnell may use it to help feed their young.

Since 2018, Cal Falcons has installed three 24/7 webcams at the top of the Campanile, allowing enthusiasts to watch Annie and Grinnell’s falcon nest from the comfort of their own homes.

“Humans have this really intense need to feel a part of the natural world, and for a long time, people were really divorced from that,” Peterson said.

Peterson has been watching the falcons for so long that he feels they are part of his family; his 2-year-old son frequently asks him what “Annie the Falcon” has been up to.

The genders of the peregrine chicks will be determined when they are banded for identification purposes in mid-May, according to Peterson. Cal Falcons also intends to continue its yearly tradition of letting the public decide the chick’s names through social media polls.

“It’s a way of celebrating a place that we love,” said Annalee Newitz, a science journalist, author and campus alumni.It’s also a way of celebrating the learning that takes place at Berkeley that … brings together citizen scientists with professional scientists.”

Newitz began watching Cal Falcons’ nest livestream during the early stages of the pandemic as a “reality check” — a way to prevent themself from being overwhelmed by the fear and desperation of not knowing what lies ahead.

For city auditor Jenny Wong, watching the peregrine falcon chicks grow up has served as a reminder that time does not stand still, despite the repetitiveness of pandemic life.

Last spring, Wong happened to be on campus when she witnessed Redwood, one of Annie and Grinnell’s offspring, make his first flight from the top of the Campanile. Whether by chance or providence, Redwood landed on a place of particular significance to Wong: Evans Hall, where Wong said she attended most of her undergraduate classes.

Wong, a mother of two, added that watching the peregrine chicks over the past years has been a nostalgic experience, reminding her of raising her own twin sons who, much like the hatchlings, would compete for food and attention. She particularly enjoys watching the hatchlings “snuggle up” with each other.

The hatchlings have already emerged from their shells. Soon, they will learn to fly.

“There’s a super happy feeling you get when your students graduate and they go into the world,” Newitz, also a former campus lecturer, said. “Like, ‘go out there and kick a–, falcons!’ ”

Contact Iris Kwok at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @iriskkwok.