Campus launches crowdfunding effort to install falcon cams on the Campanile

Since a pair of peregrine falcons first made a home on UC Berkeley’s Campanile last year, the campus community has been asking for a peek into the fascinating lives of the fastest animal in the world.

three peregrine chicks

Last spring’s three peregrine falcon chicks huddle in a nest box that Doug Bell and other experts installed for the family. (UC Berkeley photo by Maria Garcia-Alvarez)

Now, UC Berkeley, working closely with state and federal agencies, has launched a crowdfunding effort in hopes of installing two cameras on the Campanile balcony, so people can watch the couple — and its chicks in the spring — all day every day.

“We’ll have real-time observation of the nest site basically 24/7, depending on how the lighting is,” said Doug Bell, the wildlife manager of the East Bay Regional Park District. “Just knowing what’s going on — when the chicks hatch and when they take their first flight — is going to be huge.”

In spring 2017, the peregrine couple hatched their first clutch of chicks, named Fiat and Lux by the campus community. This past spring, three more were born, attracting national media attention and suggestions for names for the trio from enthusiasts all around the world. (They were named Californium, Berkelium and Lawrencium — after three elements discovered at Berkeley.)

peregrine falcon flying

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world, reaching speeds of more than 200 miles per hour when diving for prey. (UC Berkeley photo by Maria Garcia Alvarez)

During those two nesting cycles, volunteers came together to sit at the bottom of the 307-foot tower around the clock for a week, waiting for the chicks to fledge, or take their first flights. Being able to monitor the birds by camera instead of binoculars will make their jobs a lot easier, said Mary Malec, a volunteer raptor nest monitor with the East Bay Regional Park District who led the volunteer effort both times.

If the crowdfunding effort succeeds — the team’s goal is to raise $10,141 — a video camera will be clamped onto the balustrade right in front of the nest on the west-facing second balcony. It will have infrared capabilities, so it can capture video at night, and will have an internal lens, so it can pan 180 degrees without any moving parts being visible to the birds. A second video camera will be installed in the northeast corner to provide a view of the balconies on the east and north, where chicks spend a lot of time running around and flapping their wings before they fledge. Only the south side won’t be visible by camera.

The crowdfunding effort will run through Nov. 15. Those who donate $25 or more will receive a special perk, from a chance at naming the adult peregrines to a free birding field trip.

Visit the crowdfunding page at https://crowdfund.berkeley.edu/project/11307.

Learn more about the Campanile’s peregrine falcons on Berkeley News: “Peregrine falcons, zipping through campus at top speeds, are here to stay.”