In a tragic turn of events, beloved Campanile peregrine falcon Grinnell was found dead Thursday afternoon in Downtown Berkeley after being hit by a vehicle.
After being spotted flying around the Campanile that morning, Grinnell’s death was discovered when campus lecturer Emma Fraser and her partner found him on Shattuck Avenue “just after midday.” Grinnell was seven years old at the time of his death, which biologist Lynn Schofield of the Cal Falcons team described as “middle-aged” for a peregrine falcon.
“We are all deeply saddened to report that Grinnell was found dead in downtown Berkeley this afternoon. We are devastated and heartbroken,” read a tweet from @CalFalconCam. “His cause of death isn’t known, but he was probably struck by a car given where we found him.”
Grinnell is survived by his mate Annie, who was temporarily suspected to have died as well just a month before. Yet, the falcon drama extends beyond that, as Grinnell himself was gravely injured in a fight with a competing male last fall and had to undergo treatment at Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital.
Schofield confirmed that Grinnell had ultimately been hit by a vehicle, but added that the team could only hypothesize as to why Grinnell had been flying low enough to be struck. The team suspects that Grinnell’s unusually low flight pattern was related to a conflict with an unknown juvenile female falcon who had been intruding into the Campanile nest box that morning.
Fraser, a fan of the falcons since 2020, described finding Grinnell after his death as “quite an unpleasant scene,” but added that she was glad that they were able to determine what happened rather than Grinnell’s disappearance being a mystery to the community.
“I’m also strangely glad that someone who had followed Grinnell and Annie was able to be there to make that identification,” Fraser said in an email. “It’s a testament to the community and care that has grown up around the Falcons that I knew what I was looking at, and who to contact.”
The news of Grinnell’s death devastated the community of Cal Falcons fans who have closely followed the falcons on social media since their arrival at the Campanile. Fraser said she and her partner felt like they knew Annie and Grinnell personally thanks to the Cal Falcons social media presence.
Ning Wan, a Seattle artist originally from the Bay Area, was introduced to the Cal Falcons several years ago by her mother and created a comic to honor Grinnell’s passing.
“Here I am, quietly crying hundreds of miles away, because a bird that doesn’t know I exist has died,” Wan said in a post on her Instagram. “And I’m not sure how to explain that to people who don’t know Annie and Grinnell.”
Over their years at the Campanile Annie and Grinnell raised 13 chicks together, with two more of their eggs currently incubating. According to Schofield, Cal Falcons did not expect these eggs to survive after Grinnell’s death, as Annie would not be able to hunt and incubate without a mate to share the responsibility.
But in a remarkable turn of events, Annie appears to have found a new mate following Grinnell’s death, aptly referred to by the Cal Falcons team as “New Guy.”
“When a mated Peregrine dies during the breeding season, the most likely outcome of the nest is abandonment,” according to a tweet by @CalFalconCam. “In rare cases, a new mate can come in, establish a bond with the remaining individual, and adopt the chicks.”
According to a Cal Falcons tweet, Annie and Grinnell were expected to remain together until one of their impending deaths, leading them to believe that Annie realized Grinnell had passed after he did not return to the Campanile the night of his death.
Since Friday, “New Guy” has brought Annie food and taken turns incubating the eggs fathered by Grinnell. Annie appears interested in this romance as well, engaging in courtship behaviors and copulation with the new male.
The new couple’s breeding season continued with the arrival of a third egg on Saturday.
“What a turn of events. Keep your seatbelts fastened,” said frequent falcon photographer @moon_rabbit_rising on Instagram. “As hard as it is without Grinnell I do hope for a successful nesting year for Annie and whoever the heck she hooks up with.”
Schofield said that while losing Grinnell has been hard on the Cal Falcons team, they are hopeful that the peregrine falcons will remain on campus and they will continue to provide updates no matter the outcome.
Fraser praised how the Cal Falcons team has worked hard to support the falcons and their many fans.
“I think that’s the ‘real’ story here, the community and the work done by Cal Falcons every day to bring Annie and Grinnell into our lives,” Fraser said in the email.