What a difference a month makes. Exactly one month after they hatched, this May 18 shot shows peregrine falcon chick Sequoia in the back, Poppy on the left, Redwood on the right. Photo: Cal Falcons

Berkeley’s three new peregrine falcon chicks, differentiated in their first month of life by numbers and codes on their ID bands, on Tuesday got their official names — Poppy, Sequoia and Redwood. The names were chosen in a contest that ended at noon; 3,455 members of the public cast votes for their favorite set of three names.

California’s state flower and trees won out, with 30% of the vote, followed closely by names honoring famous UC Berkeley women (24.3%). In third place were Harry Potter characters, at 17.2%; local mountain peaks came in fourth (12.4%); a set of campus library names was fifth (8.9%) and, in last place, were famous healers, at 7.2%.

During a pandemic, naming the chicks — one female and two males — after medical pioneers Hippocrates, immunologist Edward (Jenner) and Florence (Nightingale) might have seemed like a no-brainer, but that set of three names didn’t fly far with voters.

“For the most part, people have seen the falcons as an escape from COVID-19, … so naming the chicks after medical professionals ran counter to one of the main reasons people have been following the falcons this year,” said Sean Peterson, a Berkeley Ph.D. student in Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management who runs the Cal Falcons social media project with biologist Lynn Schofield, his wife.

Peterson said the winning names were submitted by Berkeley Ph.D. student Tess Linden, who proposed Poppy as the name of the female chick with the code 24/AM on one of her leg bands. Since sequoias are more massive than redwoods, he said, the name Sequoia was given to the largest male chick, whose code is 01/AM. Until today, Sequoia’s brother, Redwood, was known only as U/71.

When the chicks were banded last week, colored electrical tape was placed temporarily over the male chicks’ bands, to differentiate the three chicks more easily. Sequoia has yellow tape on his band; Redwood has blue.

You could tell last year’s chicks, Carson and Cade, apart, at times, “based on differences in feather development,” said Peterson. “Carson grew his feathers a bit quicker than Cade did. We’re expecting similar variation between the chicks this year. Poppy is already significantly larger than her brothers, so she’s relatively easy to identify.”

The chicks’ names have been logged into a record kept by Cal Falcons that includes the names of all of falcon parents Annie and Grinnell’s offspring, the year they were born, their genders, the numbers on their leg bands and where they are today.

Peterson said Poppy, Sequoia and Redwood are “super active right now,” running around the top of the tower, spreading their winds and exploring.

“We’re anticipating that the fledge window will open up around May 28,” he said. “Males, on average, fly about two days before females do, so we expect Poppy will hang out in the nest a bit longer than the males. Female falcons are so much bigger (than males) and need just a little bit more time to grow to full size.”

Cal Falcons is working with the campus to plan, amid COVID-19, for Fledge Week, when volunteers keep watch on campus as the fledglings begin to fly off the Campanile.

“We’re hopeful that, with social distancing and other precautions,” said Peterson, “we can keep an eye on the chicks while keeping ourselves safe, too.”

This story was first published on May 19 on Berkeley News and has been reprinted here by permission.

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