If you’ve been perched on the edge of your seat since UC Berkeley’s male falcon, Grinnell, was released above campus on Nov. 17 after healing from a fight with rival raptors, you’ll have to stay there a little longer.
This story was first published on Berkeley News
You’ll have to wait to find out if Grinnell’s mate, Annie, takes him back after a nearly three-week absence. Or if Grinnell flies off, with Annie paired with the male falcon implicated in his attack. Or if Grinnell and the male rival fight again over territory, and Annie.
You won’t be alone. Turns out Grinnell, his competitor, and Annie are in a holding pattern, too. And all three are hanging out — with no sign of resolution — at or near the Campanile, Annie and Grinnell’s home, where the couple has raised five broods of chicks since 2017.
These days, Annie’s been seen on the tower with Grinnell. Sometimes, though, she’s there with the rival instead. The males have never been spotted on the Campanile at once.
“It’s possible she hasn’t made up her mind and could be receptive to either male, or even a different male yet to show up,” said Mary Malec, a Cal Falcons member who monitors local raptor nests for the East Bay Regional Park District. Grinnell was found injured about a mile and a half from campus after a fight with a male and a female “floater” — a non-breeding adult bird of prey attracted to occupied territories.
On Thanksgiving Day at the Campanile, Annie and the rival male were vocalizing to each other and flying as a pair, said Malec, but “Annie also seems comfortable with Grinnell and has vocalized with him, and we have seen them fly off and back at the same times. She has not actively chased either one away.”
Annie definitely recognizes Grinnell, said Sean Peterson, an ornithologist who’s on the Cal Falcons team, since birds, “in general, have incredible memories and can recognize individuals within their own species very easily.”
Added Malec, “I think we can assume they recognize each other and seem comfortable together.”
But Grinnell hasn’t been assuming anything, it seems, and “has been mostly using exterior perches (on the Campanile) and hasn’t been seen on camera yet,” said Peterson, referring to the three webcams on the tower that often pick up the peregrines’ activity. “It appears that he’s hunting and taking care of himself well.”
Malec said that Grinnell, who had a damaged upper beak, a wound near his chin and throat, and an injured left wing, “flies well, but seems to have a bit of stiffness in his wingbeats, but lands well. Presumably he is hunting. He has been seen several times with a full crop indicating he is eating well.”
Grinnell shows up at the Campanile daily, mostly positioned on any one the tower’s ledges, she said. He’s also been spotted atop the Campanile’s lantern; on the garland below the observation deck, where the carillon is played; on the level of the nest, where he Annie have raised their young; and on one of the 307-foot structure’s decorative flames.
Likewise, the new male is tentative and “has definitely shown interest in Annie, but he’s still not 100% comfortable with her,” said Peterson. “We did not see the new male for about a week — we resighted him on the tower on Nov. 25, when he perched on the balcony near Annie for a few minutes.”
While some courting behavior has been observed between the rival and Annie, “he has definitely not been performing head bow displays or anything like that since Grinnell showed up,” he said. It’s possible, though, added Malec, that bowing and other behaviors are occurring off-camera.
As for the rival female involved in Grinnell’s attack, she was seen regularly at the Campanile while Grinnell was at the hospital, and once when both Annie and the new male were there. But she hasn’t been around lately. “She could be on the peripheries of the territory, or she could have moved on,” said Malec.
Said Peterson, “I think it’s safe to assume that Annie is still the queen of the Campanile.”
And in her queendom, he said, Annie seems content “to let the two males figure it out for themselves. Grinnell is a known quantity for her, so she isn’t soliciting or expecting courtship behaviors from him. She is definitely interested in the new male, if he’s the one that ends up taking over the territory.
“Eventually, Grinnell and the new male will probably have a fight of some kind that will determine who the male at the Campanile will be.”
Malec said the chances of a fight are “pretty high, now or later in the year, or even after nesting behavior has begun (in late winter), although it’s really hard to say what form it may take. It may be an actual physical fight, or more of a chase around campus.”
She added that it’s never in the interests of a breeding pair of raptors to seek out fights, but that it’s always the right choice for them to defend their territory with “as little fighting as is needed to convince floaters that this is not their territory.”
While Annie and Grinnell’s worldwide following await a resolution to the drama, Malec said they can take heart that the peregrine population is healthy, as indicated by the floaters in the area “that are ready and able to take the place of either Annie or Grinnell, if one gets old or sick or injured.”
Malec and a crew of volunteers continues to monitor the situation daily, both on campus and via the Cal Falcons webcams, ready to rescue an injured bird as needed.