Photos: UC Berkeley falcon fledglings take to the sky

A series of stunning photographs show the little falcons at the top of UC Berkeley’s Campanile learning to flap their wings and fly.

Lindsay flew off the Campanile around 6 a.m. on Saturday. Credit: Bridget Ahern

The recent three-day holiday weekend gave UC Berkeley’s newest falcons — Grinnell Jr. and Lindsay — lots of time to test their flying skills. By Monday, each had mastered leaving their home on the Campanile, flying elsewhere on campus, and returning home again. A few local photographers beautifully captured their progress.

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

Learning to fly is hard work, and on Saturday, when the siblings took their first flights, they were too tired to return home. They wound up spending the night sleeping where they’d landed — Lindsay on Birge Hall and Grinnell Jr. in a redwood tree near Strawberry Creek.

About a dozen volunteers led by Mary Malec, a member of Cal Falcons who monitors local raptor nests for the East Bay Regional Park District, were on campus during the campus’s annual Fledge Watch, which began a week ago. With binoculars and telescopic lenses, they kept a close eye on the fledglings.

Wildlife photographer Bridget Ahern. Credit: Dorothy Hearst

Juvenile falcons like Lindsay and Grinnell Jr. have a mortality rate of between 50% and 60%, said Malec. “Life is hard for them,” she explained, “and it’s not just hard for urban peregrines. So, the point of Fledge Watch is to give them the best possible start, to be there for their first urban landings, to assess the number of their flights and landings and how they gain altitude.”

Grinnell Jr. had his first flight around 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, and wound up in a tree overnight. During the weekend, he also attempted to land on the Campanile’s pyramid-shaped marble top, but slid off. Credit: Bridget Ahern

On his first Father’s Day, Alden got high marks. After assuming the parenting role left by Grinnell, Annie’s longtime mate, who died on March 31, “he just instinctively knows what to do,” said Malec. “He’s not only perfected fatherhood, he’s perfected teenage fatherhood.”

On Sunday morning, he and Annie brought food to Lindsay on Birge Hall, after she’d spent the night there, and to Grinnell Jr. twice that day when he was stranded on various spots on the bell tower. When Lindsay landed on Campbell Hall, the parents “sat on the window awnings of Tan Hall for a long time, just watching her,” said Malec. “They knew exactly where she was.”

Sean Peterson, an environmental biologist with Cal Falcons, said it was “an incredible relief to have the chicks fledge” this season, after all the drama and tragedy involving the campus’s falcons that began last October.

“I honestly didn’t think we would have any chicks after Grinnell’s death,” he said, “so these last few days have been phenomenal.”

Lindsay and Grinnell Jr. will continue to build their flight skills in the coming weeks. The siblings might be seen flying together, said Malec, adding that they also enjoy “nuzzling each other, beaking each other and pulling each other’s feathers. That’s just natural behavior.”

Typically, females fledge after males, but Lindsay took off about 12 hours before her brother. Credit: Bridget Ahern
Grinnell Jr. took his first flight on Saturday, too, around 6 p.m. Credit: Bridget Ahern
Grinnell Jr. in a tree near Strawberry Creek. Credit: John Davis
Learning to fly is exhausting. Lindsay took a nap on the roof of the Bancroft Library after landing there on Saturday morning, after her first flight off the tower. Credit: Bridget Ahern

Watch this recent video interview with Malec and other volunteers as they began this year’s Fledge Watch. And see more photos at Berkeley News.