Popular peregrine falcon pair may yet reunite

Dr. Krystal Woo/Lindsay Wildlife Experience via Bay City News

Grinnell, one of the beloved Peregrine falcons, who along with his partner Annie, nests on the UC Berkeley Campanile Tower, was brought to Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital in Walnut Creek on Oct. 28 with injuries after a suspected territory dispute with another falcon.

Fans are hopeful that a pair of peregrine falcons that have mated in the past in Berkeley will stay together, officials with the University of California at Berkeley said Monday.

Annie and Grinnell had been together since late 2016. They have produced 13 chicks since 2017. But two falcons attacked Grinnell in October, leaving him hospitalized — and Annie started pairing behavior with one of the rivals.

Grinnell returned to campus in November, and on New Year’s Day the longtime pair were seen displaying courtship behavior once again.

“They know each other is around,” said Mary Malec of Cal Falcons, a group that monitors the falcon pair, in a statement. “They have been talking to each other and flying together, but this is the first time anyone has seen courtship behavior between them.”

“With the days getting longer, this is the time that courtship behavior starts to increase, Malec said.

The recent courtship behavior is a first since Grinnell returned to campus Nov. 17. He was found Oct. 29, injured on a Berkeley Tennis Club trash can and was taken to Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital in Walnut Creek. While Grinnell was away, Annie was soliciting pairing behavior with the male falcon who was involved in Grinnell’s injury.

“The new male had begun to display similar courtship behaviors with Annie, … and they were actually courting pretty intensely for a little bit,” said Lynn Schofield, an ornithologist and a member of Cal Falcons, in a statement.

Annie and Grinnell typically began their annual bonding behavior in mid-January. That behavior consists of head-bowing displays and preparation of their nest box on the university’s Campanile. They have mated around Valentine’s Day, with egg-laying around March 10 to 15, said ornithologist Sean Peterson, who also is a member of Cal Falcons. On Sunday, Annie was seen at the nest, scraping it, and creating a small depression by lying on her stomach and kicking the gravel.

Within hours of being released outside the Lawrence Hall of Science, in Berkeley, Calif., on November 17, 2022 after being treated for injuries at Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital in Walnut Creek, Calif. Grinnell flew back to his home on the Campanile on the University of California, Berkeley campus. (Bridget Ahern via Bay City News)

The courtship behavior has thousands of people happy and excited about a potential reunion, according to the university. Cal Falcon’s courtship video on Twitter drew 15,000 views. Thousands more watched it on Instagram and thousands more on Facebook. People commented from places as far away as Japan and Australia, university officials said.

In the October attack, Grinnell suffered an injury to his upper beak, his left wing and near his chin. Grinnell was injured by a male falcon and a female falcon who were “floaters” — adult, non-breeding birds of prey who are attracted to the homes of other birds, like Annie and Grinnell’s home on the Campanile.

More recently, Annie and Grinnell have been seen often on the Campanile at dark, which means one or both are sleeping on the ledges of the tower. They don’t sleep in the nest unless chicks or eggs are there, but they stay nearby to defend their home. Grinnell “appears to have healed wonderfully,” Schofield said.

Also, people have noticed less stiffness in Grinnell’s wings than in the days after he was released from the hospital. Experts with Cal Falcons said people may see more drama from Annie and Grinnell.

“We can’t know for certain (they’ll stay together), because there’s still plenty of time for the new male (rival) or an entirely different male to come and challenge Grinnell,” Schofield said. “Similarly, a new female could arrive” and try to replace Annie on the Campanile.

Malec agreed.

“I’m not sure it’s settled yet,” she said.

But for now, the campus community and fans in 40 countries are happy and … hopeful.

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