Grinnell, UC Berkeley’s persevering male falcon, is found dead downtown

Grinnell, UC Berkeley's longtime male peregrine falcon, sits on a ledge on the Campanile.

Grinnell, UC Berkeley’s male peregrine falcon, died on Thursday, March 31, at age 7. He first arrived on campus in late 2016 and made a home atop the Campanile with mate Annie. (Image courtesy of Cal Falcons)

UC Berkeley’s male peregrine falcon, Grinnell, was found dead midday today (Thursday, March 31) in the middle of the road at Shattuck Avenue and Kittredge Street, in downtown Berkeley. Two passersby saw the downed falcon, who had been hit by a car, and contacted Cal Falcons via social media to ask if it was Grinnell; a member of that group went to the scene and retrieved his body.

This morning, a juvenile peregrine falcon had been threatening the nest of Grinnell and Annie, his longtime mate, on Berkeley’s Campanile, said Lynn Schofield, an ornithologist with Cal Falcons. The young raptor visited the tower twice, even entering the falcon couple’s nest box where Annie so far has laid two eggs; a third was expected today. On Facebook this morning, Cal Falcons posted a video of Grinnell defending the nest.

“We don’t know whether or not (the activity on the tower today) was related to why Grinnell was in the road,” said Schofield. “If (the juvenile) had been fighting (with Grinnell), she might have tried to knock him down to the ground. All morning, Annie and Grinnell were defending the tower. We’re not sure if this juvenile is one we’ve seen before (on the tower) or not.

“All we can say is that Grinnell was in the road downtown and had been hit by a car. … We’re all very upset.”

Mary Malec, a raptor expert with Cal Falcons who picked up Grinnell’s body from the scene, said she believes that Grinnell, who was to turn 8 years old this spring, “ended up on the ground after his encounter with one of the floaters,” and then, alive or dead, was hit by a car.  She said his remains will be examined at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Health Laboratory in Sacramento. Floaters are non-breeding adult birds of prey attracted to occupied territories.

“We get calls from people who say, ‘There’s a falcon on the ground,’ or ‘There’s a baby falcon on the ground,’ but it’s never a falcon,” said Malec. “But we always go check it out. We always answer those calls. …Today, the first thing I saw was that it was a falcon, and the second thing I saw was Grinnell’s (identification) band. My heart sank then and there.”

Schofield said it’s unlikely that the eggs in Annie and Grinnell’s nest will hatch this spring, since Annie can’t both hunt, to feed herself, and incubate the eggs.

“Unless Annie gets a new partner really quickly, and it’s possible that the new partner might just fill in (for Grinnell), most likely these eggs won’t make it,” said Schofield. Annie was seen sitting on the nest this afternoon and early evening via one of three webcams on the Campanile.

“She will probably figure it out soon,” that Grinnell is gone, said Malec, adding that she’s doubtful that Annie will accept a new mate any time soon. “It would take time for them to pair bond. She’s not going to trust (another male) right away.”

News of the death of Grinnell is devastating to Annie and Grinnell’s fans, both locally and worldwide, especially since the past half year of the birds’ lives has been unusually stressful. After a relatively drama-free life together, starting when they established territory on the Campanile in late 2016 and continuing over their years as parents, Annie and Grinnell have had nothing but major ups and downs since last October.


Just a few days ago, Grinnell defended from an intruder the nest he shared with mate Annie, who had begun laying eggs. (Image courtesy of Cal Falcons)

In late October, Grinnell was found injured atop a trash can at the Berkeley Tennis Club, wounded by rival falcons eyeing his territory on the bell tower. He healed at the Lindsey Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital and was released in mid-November, then flew back to the tower and Annie. But while Grinnell was away, Annie had been courting the male falcon that had attacked her mate; both male falcons hung around the tower until New Year’s Day 2022, when Annie and Grinnell were seen displaying courtship behavior. The rival disappeared, and Annie and Grinnell appeared to be ready for their sixth breeding season.

Of the pair’s 13 offspring, one, whose name was Lux, died in 2017 while learning to fly. A total of seven known “grandchildren” for Annie and Grinnell have been produced by a few of the 12, said Malec.

Grinnell the falcon lifts off the ground on the day of his release following hospitalization.

Grinnell was released over the campus on Nov. 17, 2021, after being hospitalized at Lindsey Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital. In late October, he’d been attacked by rival falcons. (Photo by Bridget Ahern)

The pair’s drama continued in late February when Annie disappeared, uncharacteristically, for at least a week, leading Cal Falcons to announce that she likely was dead, badly injured somewhere or had abandoned her territory. Surprisingly, she returned to campus on March 1, settling into her nest as if she’d never left. Annie laid her first egg of the season on Saturday, March 26.

What will happen next in the tower is unknown, as are further details about Grinnell’s death.

“We can only speculate,” said Schofield. “Maybe if someone takes a closer look at his body, we might get more insight about his injuries, and whether there are signs of injuries other than those from the car.”

Malec added that the state lab will do a toxicology analysis to see if anything shows up in Grinnell’s organs that might have contributed to his death.