Campus & community, Campus news

Welcome, Lou! UC Berkeley’s new male falcon gets a name

By Gretchen Kell

Lou, the new male falcon on the Campanile, spreads his wings and seemingly flies straight toward the camera.

Today, UC Berkeley’s new male peregrine falcon received his name — Lou — at the end of a contest of open to the public. That name captured 28.4% of the vote. (Photo by Bridget Ahern)

Meet Lou, UC Berkeley’s newest peregrine falcon!

A naming contest open to the public ended today with 28.4% of voters choosing the name Lou over Marshawn (23%), Archie (16.8%). Morgan (10.2%), Rex (9%), Tony (6.9%) and Hu (5.6%). There were 4,728 votes cast, 1,343 for Lou.

Lou is the current mate of Annie, Berkeley’s longtime female falcon, who lost her previous mates — Grinnell and Alden — in 2022. The name is a nod to Louise Kellogg (1879-1967), a Berkeley alumna who was the partner of Annie’s namesake, Annie Alexander (1867-1950). Alexander was an explorer and naturalist who founded the UC Museum of Paleontology and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Berkeley’s scientific collections contain more than 22,000 plant, animal and paleontological specimens collected, documented and donated by the two women.

Cal Falcons PhotoShopped the heads of falcons Lou (right) and Annie (left) onto an old black-and-white photo of their namesakes, naturalists Louise Kellogg and Annie Alexander.

Cal Falcons PhotoShopped the heads of UC Berkeley falcons Lou (right) and Annie (left) onto a photo of their UC namesakes, Louise Kellogg and Annie Alexander. (Cal Falcons image)

“I think the story of Annie and Louise really resonated with people,” said Sean Peterson, an environmental biologist with Cal Falcons who said he also voted for Lou. “It wasn’t the most queer-friendly era that they lived in, yet they carved out incredibly successful lives together.

“It’s a classic love-triumphing-over-adversity story.”

With breeding season underway, Lou is learning the ropes of being a provider for Annie, who is expected to lay eggs in mid-March. This will Annie’s seventh season as a mother, but possibly Lou’s first as a dad.

Typically, the male falcon, at this point in the season, hunts and brings food to the female, often eating off the head — or just eating the brains — of his prey and then dropping off the rest for his mate.

A colorful pie chart from Cal Falcons shows the breakdown by percent of the public votes for specific names for the new male falcon.

A breakdown of the votes shows the public’s favorites in this Cal Falcons pie chart. (Cal Falcons image)

But not too long ago, Annie “would be reduced to eating leftovers rather than getting prime food,” said Mary Malec, a Cal Falcons raptor expert. “Lou would bring her food, but he’d clearly eaten most of it.”

Recently, progress is being observed. Said Malec, “He has begun bringing her whole birds — full, unplucked birds — and Annie’s had the whole thing.”

“He’s bringing a lot of different birds for Annie,” said Peterson, “and she seems quite happy with him as a mate.”

Lou remains a bit tentative in the presence of Annie, a bird Peterson has called “Queen Annie.” She arrived on campus in late 2016 to claim the Campanile as her territory with mate Grinnell, who was found dead in downtown Berkeley last March. Her next mate, Alden, disappeared last November.

Lou the new male falcon at Berkeley sails through the blue skies above campus.

Lou soars through the skies above campus. (Photo by Bridget Ahern)

“Annie is incredibly resilient and tenacious,” he said. “I try not to anthropomorphize the falcons too much, but she always seems so rock steady, no matter the drama that’s happening around her.

“I’d say she’s probably passed the average number of years a female bird maintains a territory by a pretty good margin. She’s a very large and strong female and has been very successful in defending her territory for many years.”

With more rain on the way, Annie might delay egg-laying a little bit this year, said Peterson, but “we’ll see if there’s a population-wide delay in about a week or so, which is traditionally when the first egg is laid among all the Bay Area nests.”

Once the first egg is laid, he added, Cal Falcons will be able to predict when hatching, the banding of the chicks and fledging will occur this spring.