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Annie the falcon's got a new valentine, naming contest starts today

Submit UC Berkeley-related suggestions to Cal Falcons; finalists to be announced Friday. 

By Gretchen Kell

The new male falcon on campus, yet unnamed, lands on a corner of the bell tower.

This male falcon recently swooped into the life of Annie, UC Berkeley's longtime female falcon, after the loss of Lou, her previous mate. The two are engaging in courtship behavior and breeding is underway.

Bridget Ahern for UC Berkeley

It’s Valentine's Day, the perfect time to launch a contest to name Annie the peregrine falcon’s new mate.

The new male falcon on campus who has paired up with Annie on the Campanile flies with his talons curled and his wings stretched back, almost touching each other, as if he about to land.
Will Annie's new partner hunt for her? So far, Cal Falcons hasn't seen him bring her meals, but perhaps he's doing so away from the Campanile webcams. Hunting is a major courtship behavior, along with flight displays, head bow displays and copulation.
Bridget Ahern for UC Berkeley

Having déjà vu? Last Feb. 14, a similar contest launched for a new male in Annie’s life atop UC Berkeley’s Campanile.

But Lou is gone, and with nesting season underway, the campus's longtime female falcon has chosen another partner. Like Lou, he has "a higher pitched, squeaky voice" and is younger than 10-year-old Annie, said Cal Falcons ecologist Sean Peterson.

The newcomer "is starting to look pretty comfortable on the tower," said Peterson. He also seems cozy with Annie, who’s been encouraging his attention. Lately, the two have displayed three major courtship behaviors — flight displays, head bow displays and copulation.

And so, another naming contest begins. The public is invited to submit UC Berkeley-related names via Cal Falcons' social media channels: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Cal Falcons scientists will select suggestions that receive the most "likes," but reserve the right to veto any divisive or inappropriate names.

Finalist names will be announced Friday, Feb. 16, and the winning name on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Annie the mother falcon sits alone on a branch on campus, seemingly looking at the camera and cocking her head.
Annie has had a series of bad luck with mates. Grinnell was found dead in March 2022, Alden disappeared later that year, and Lou has been missing since early January 2024. Avian flu may have played a role in Alden and Lou's demise, but there is no way to prove it. 
Bridget Ahern for UC Berkeley

Annie’s namesake is Annie Alexander (1867-1950, an explorer and naturalist who founded the UC Museum of Paleontology and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Her most recent mate, Lou, was named for Louise Kellogg (1867-1950), Alexander’s partner. The pair documented and donated more than 22,000 plant, animal and paleontological specimens to Berkeley’s scientific collections.

Falcons Annie and Lou produced three chicks last spring: Zephyr, Luna and Rosa. Annie has raised 18 chicks to date on the bell tower.

The appearance of a new male falcon weeks after Lou disappeared in early January is a relief — and encouraging — to members of Cal Falcons and Annie’s fans. After Grinnell’s death in 2022, a new mate showed up within seven hours. When that mate, Alden, disappeared later that year, Lou arrived within days.

If all goes well, Annie will lay eggs in early-to-mid March, with her soon-to-be named mate hunting and delivering meals to her, and eventually to their young.

The new male falcon who is Annie's partner as of January 2024 stands on a ledge of the Campanile looking into the camera. His feet, beak and the area around his eyeballs are very yellowish-orange.
Cal Falcons describes Annie's new partner as svelte and a little bigger, longer and leaner than Lou. Annie and Lou raised three chicks last year on the bell tower.
Cal Falcons for UC Berkeley

This new raptor flew in several weeks after Lou went missing. Annie was alone a little longer than before, but it’s still great news, said Peterson, as "it indicates there are enough peregrines in the Bay Area that, if Annie loses a mate, there are new options. It's a sign of a population doing relatively well."

It's uncommon, but not unprecedented, for a female falcon, like Annie, to have "a rotating cast of males for several years," he said. But he added that he’d like to see Annie with "a long-term partner." Annie and Grinnell were mates from their arrival on campus in late 2016 until Grinnell was found dead in downtown Berkeley in March 2022.

Whether the new mate, described by Peterson as svelte and a little bigger, longer and leaner than Lou, has been a father before is unclear.

"The best way we can know if he has experience is by watching how he behaves when it’s time for him to incubate and care for chicks," he said. "It’s relatively more likely that he hasn’t had experience, as falcons don’t typically abandon successful territories."