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Finding their wings: Stunning photos show young falcons’ first flights

They've got adult bodies, but Zephyr, Rosa and Luna are still practicing their flight skills, playing and getting fed.

Rosa, one of the two female falcons born on the Campanile in 2023, comes in for a landing, looking straight ahead.

Rosa, one of the two female falcons that hatched in April 2023 on the Campanile, comes in for a landing. (Photo by Bridget Ahern)

Zephyr flew first, followed by Rosa and then Luna. On Friday, May 26, all three peregrine falcon siblings, offspring of Annie and Lou, flew off UC Berkeley’s Campanile for the first time. The young raptors — two females and a male hatched in early April in a nest box on the tower — have practiced their takeoffs, flights and landings ever since and will continue perfect their skills, and also learn to hunt, in the next month or two. Then, they’ll leave home to find their own territories.

“They’re all starting to fly really well,” said Mary Malec, a raptor expert with Cal Falcons. She and a team of about 25 volunteers have now wrapped up the annual Fledge Watch. For about a week, as the newest falcons learned to fly, they monitored the activity through binoculars and were ready to help should a fledgling get stranded or hurt.

But photos by wildlife photographers such as Bridget Ahern and John Davis provide the most close-up looks at Zephyr, Rosa and Luna and how Annie and Lou are encouraging, teaching and helping them.

Ahern, who was part of the Fledge Watch team, said she took about 5,000 photos over eight days, documenting the progress being made by the newest members of Berkeley’s famous falcon family.

“I took a week off of work to participate. … It’s just thrilling to see them take their first flights,” she said.

Malec said the falcon siblings like to spend time together and can also can be seen “playing talon tag,” where they hook their talons together midair. It’s good practice, she explained, for when their parents, holding prey in their talons, urge the young raptors to grab it — an important step toward hunting to feed themselves, and their own families, some day.