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It’s Alden! Record number of voters chose new Berkeley falcon’s name

And the names Alden and Annie sound great together, right?

Alden, the new male falcon at UC Berkeley soars near the Campanile.

Alden was the No. 1 name in the Cal Falcons naming contest for Annie’s new mate. It captured 29% of the vote. (Photo by Bridget Ahern)

New Guy’s new name is … Alden! Voters overwhelmingly chose the name for UC Berkeley’s new male peregrine falcon over eight others in a Cal Falcons contest that ended Sunday at noon.

Alden, who swooped in as a mate for Annie, Berkeley’s female falcon, after the death on March 31 of her longtime mate, Grinnell, is named for Alden Miller (1906-1965), an American ornithologist and Berkeley alumnus. Miller succeeded Joseph Grinnell as director of the campus’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Grinnell was the museum’s first director; Grinnell the falcon was named after him.

The name Alden “was ahead by a substantial margin for the entirety of the voting period,” said Lynn Schofield, an ornithologist with Cal Falcons. “I think people like the name because of its relationship with Grinnell’s (name). Alden Miller was Joseph Grinnell’s student and successor, so the name Alden is partially paying homage to Grinnell’s legacy.

“As endearing as the new guy is, we still miss Grinnell. I’m really happy with the name choice.”

A pie chart from Cal Falcons in bright colors shows what percentage of the vote each of nine names received in a contest to name Annie the falcon's new mate.

A Cal Falcons pie chart shows how the votes played out. (Cal Falcons image)

A surprisingly large number of people, 9,478, voted in the contest, and that’s more than took part in any of the contests since 2017 to name Annie and Grinnell’s 13 chicks, said Sean Peterson, also a Cal Falcons ornithologist. The most votes ever gathered in a chick naming contest was 3,745.

The name Alden got 29% of the vote. The second most popular name was Lou (17%), then Archie (12%), Savio (8%), Takaki (8%), Ed (8%), Ned (7%), Morgan (6%) and Calvin (5%).

About 1,000 members of the public suggested names for the falcon, who had been nicknamed New Guy, then the list was pared down to nine names by 12 biologists and volunteers from Cal Falcons.

“The names selected for the voting are a really good representation of UC Berkeley people who have made a difference,” said Mary Malec, a raptor expert with Cal Falcons. “And it’s clear we will have relevant UC Berkeley-related names to choose from in the future.”

Peterson said that the drama around Grinnell’s death and the sudden appearance of Alden caring for Annie’s eggs in the nest atop the Campanile “has massively increased interest” in Berkeley’s falcons.

A woman sits on the pavement under the Campanile to look at the tributes left for Grinnell, the Berkeley falcon that was found dead on March 31, 2022.

Choosing the name Alden for Annie’s new mate is a way of “paying homage” to the legacy of Grinnell, whose death prompted people to leave tributes to him beneath the Campanile, said Lynn Schofield of Cal Falcons. Alden Miller was the second director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Joseph Grinnell was the first. (Photo by Bridget Ahern)

“People are definitely becoming more engaged in the story of these falcons than ever before,” agreed Schofield. “Aside from simply seeing greater numbers of people tuning into Cal Falcons over the last couple of months, and the media attention they’ve attracted, we are hearing directly from people about how they relate to what’s happening.

“People really mourned Grinnell’s loss, and a memorial was organically created as people left flowers, notes, art and tokens at the base of the tower.” She said people also shared their own artwork honoring Grinnell through Cal Falcons’ social media channels.

Cal Falcons’ T-shirts still depict Annie and Grinnell, and “we plan on keeping that going for the rest of the season,” said Peterson. “As usual, all proceeds go to support streaming, education, outreach and research.”

Peterson said that Cal Falcons likely will hold a livestreamed Q&A this Friday, April 22, at 12 noon Pacific time and another on Friday, May 6 — the day the eggs are expected to begin to hatch — at 3 p.m. More information will be on the Cal Falcons website.

Up in the nest, Annie and Alden have been taking turns incubating the eggs, and Alden often hunts at night, bringing a lot of shorebirds to Annie for meals. Shortly after his arrival at the bell tower, Alden also began driving off intruding falcons trying to encroach on the Berkeley falcons’ territory.

“This new male is working to provide for his new family and to defend their home, even with a significant injury, and his injury doesn’t really seem to hold him back,” said Schofield, referring to Alden’s injured left foot.

“From the outside, it seems like everything is going well,” she said. “It’s been refreshingly uneventful, and I hope it stays that way until the eggs hopefully hatch.”