Fallen falcon honored as new UC Berkeley chicks are named

More than 5,000 people cast votes in the Cal Falcons naming contest. One of the two new falcon chicks was named in honor of Grinnell, the beloved bird who died March 31.

Lindsay (left) and her brother Grinnell Jr. are leaving the nest these days to explore their neighborhood on the Campanile and exercise their flight muscles. Credit: Cal Falcons

This story was produced by UC Berkeley and first published on Berkeley News

It’s official: Grinnell Jr. and Lindsay are the names of UC Berkeley’s two new peregrine falcon chicks. A whopping 5,350 people cast votes in the Cal Falcons naming contest that began last Friday and ended this morning. Previously, the highest number of votes cast by the public to name the chicks in any of the previous five falcon broods on the Campanile was 3,500, in 2020.

Grinnell Jr., a name honoring longtime campus falcon Grinnell, who died March 31, was by far the most popular name for the male chick, with 43% of the vote. Lindsay — the name is a tribute to Lindsay Wildlife Experience, where Grinnell was treated at its rehabilitation hospital last fall after being attacked by rival falcons — got 24% of the vote, with the name Hope not far behind, with 22%.

Credit: CalFalcons

Born on May 5 and 6, the two siblings now are venturing outside the nest box on the bell tower and exploring their territory on foot, with mother Annie and new dad Alden close by. Their fluffy down is beginning to give way to juvenile plumage.

“I love the chicks’ current look right now. They look like Muppets, to me,” said Sean Peterson, an environmental researcher with Cal Falcons.

“They’re growing and developing very fast, and we’re still anticipating a June 14 beginning to Fledge Watch,” he said. At Berkeley, Fledge Watch is the annual stretch of time when the chicks attempt to fly off the tower, while volunteers below monitor their flights and are prepared to assist them, if they become stranded or hurt.

Credit: CalFalcons

The new names Grinnell Jr. and Lindsay will be added to a list on the Cal Falcons website that includes the names of all the chicks hatched on the Campanile, the year they were born, their sex, band number and the color of electrical tape on one of their legs that helps people distinguish one year’s sibling from another.

Grinnell Jr.’s tape is blue, and Lindsay’s is yellow.

Peterson said that naming the campus falcon chicks each year “helps people connect with the birds. Each chick has its own unique personality, and I think it’s easier for people to pick up on that when the chicks are named.”

Not all institutions give names to their resident wildlife. Cornell University, for example, “calls their red-tailed hawk chicks L1, L2, L3 and L4,” said Peterson. “Our naming contest success and popularity inspired the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to name its chicks.

“I think it’s a largely personal preference, but I think it’s been a very positive aspect of Cal Falcons.”

At Lindsay Wildlife Experience on Friday, word of the name Lindsay being given to one of the new chicks was greeted with happiness. “We are thrilled,” said Jennifer Modenessi, director of communications and marketing. “We hope that Lindsay and her sibling — like her mother Annie and the late Grinnell — will inspire people to learn more about our wild neighbors and how to protect their habitats.”

In April, the public voted to give the name Alden to the male falcon that Annie welcomed to the nest this spring after Grinnell was found dead in downtown Berkeley. Nearly 9,500 people voted in his naming contest.

Annie and Grinnell had two chicks in 2017 (Fiat and Lux, but Lux died while learning to fly), three in 2018 (Berkelium, Californium and Lawrencium, or Larry), two in 2019 (Cade and Carson), three in 2020 (Poppy, Sequoia and Redwood) and three in 2021 (Fauci, Kaknu and Wek’-wek).