‘Totally unexpected’: Beloved peregrine falcon returns after disappearance

Photo of Annie the falcon
Cal Falcons/Courtesy
In the midst of breeding season, Annie the peregrine falcon returned to the Campanile after a week of having unknown whereabouts.

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After being announced as missing a day before, Annie the peregrine falcon returned to the Campanile on Tuesday to put a stop to rumors of her death.

The @CalFalconsCam Twitter account announced Monday that Annie had been missing for a week, leading it to presume that Annie had died, been injured or been displaced from the territory by other peregrines. However, the next day, Annie was spotted returning to her nest on top of the campanile.

“We’ve never, in our years of monitoring Peregrine nests had a female disappear during the peak of breeding season and reappear a week later like nothing had changed. Especially with so much competition around.” Tuesday’s @CalFalconsCam Twitter thread reads.

Annie and her partner Grinnell have nested in the Campanile since 2016, raising 13 chicks together over the years. But recently, a number of new female falcons have been present in their terrority, surprising researchers, according to the CalFalcons team.

Biologist and member of the CalFalcons team Lynn Schofield explained that while other falcons may visit the Campanile, it is unusual for them to spend a substantial amount of time there without being intercepted by Annie due to the territorial nature of Peregrines.

In Annie’s absence, Grinnell was spotted “soliciting courtship” from a juvenile female falcon, demonstrating that he likely also believed Annie was gone for good before her shocking return, Schofield said.

“This is something that is totally unexpected and goes against pretty much everything we’ve seen,” the Twitter thread reads. “She still may face competition from the new birds in the area, but Queen Annie appears to be back.”

Annie and Grinnell appear to be getting along as normal following her disappearance, according to Schofield. If both birds are able to maintain their control of the Campanile territory, a desirable falcon nesting spot, they will likely remain together, she noted.

But the mystery remains as to where Annie was the past week, according to fellow CalFalcons team member Sean Peterson.

“Our current hypotheses are that Annie was injured and recovering somewhere, was exploring the possibility of finding a new territory, or that she decided to avoid conflict with multiple females and wait until there was only one left she could defend the territory against,” Peterson said. “We really don’t have any good way of knowing where she was and what she was up to.”

In the midst of the breeding season, the researchers are hopeful that Annie will be able to retain the territory and lay eggs for her sixth brood. According to Schofield, Annie has begun scraping the nestbox, a behavior used to clear space for eggs to be laid, and is developing a brood patch, a fluffy patch of feathers used to warm eggs during incubation.

Yet Schofield and Peterson both emphasized the uncertainty of the future, noting that breeding season could potentially be delayed.

“Fingers crossed, we’ll still have many years of Annie and Grinnell ahead of us,” Peterson said. “But as with anything in nature, it’s very hard to make a solid prediction.”

Contact Claire Daly at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @DalyClaire13.