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It's Archie! Contest ends to name UC Berkeley's new male peregrine falcon

The raptor is named for alumnus Archie Williams, an Olympian, an instructor at the Tuskegee Army flying school and a U.S. Air Force pilot in World War II.

By Gretchen Kell

Archie, the newly-named male peregrine falcon living with Annie on the Campanile, sits on the ledge of the bell tower. His feet are very orange,  and his feathers are gray and white, with speckles and squiggles as a design. His dark eyeball has an orange rim.

Meet Archie, the newly-named male peregrine falcon on the Campanile who is Annie's mate for the 2024 breeding season.

Cal Falcons for UC Berkeley

Archie Williams, a Berkeley engineering alumnus who ran fast enough to earn Olympic gold in 1936 and then flew U.S. Air Force planes during World War II has a new namesake — the new male peregrine falcon at UC Berkeley.

Votes in a public contest that ended yesterday to name the raptor — Annie the falcon’s mate for the 2024 breeding season, and hopefully beyond — overwhelmingly were for Archie. The other names on the ballot were Galen, Morgan and Mulford.

“As befitting a gold medal Olympian, Archie really ran away with the competition,” said Sean Peterson, a Cal Falcons ecologist. “It was never really in doubt.”

A colorful pie chart shows the names the public chose from to name the new male falcon on the Campanile and the percentage of votes they received. The big blue piece shows the name Archie, with 40.9% of the 2,355 votes cast; a red section for Galen, who receive 27.5% of the votes, a yellow section is for Morgan, with 19.2% of the vote and a green slice for Mulford, which received 12.4% of the vote.

A pie chart created by Cal Falcons shows the name Archie as the runaway winner, with 40.9% of the 2,355 votes cast, in the contest to name the new male peregrine falcon at UC Berkeley.

Cal Falcons for UC Berkeley

The name Archie received 40.9% of the vote, then Galen at 27.5%, Morgan at 19.2% and Mulford at 12.4%. The total number of votes cast in the contest was 2,355.

Peterson said the name Archie seemed to grab voters’ attention for a few reasons: “Archie Williams was very fast, he was a pilot, and the high school that’s named after him has the peregrine falcon as its mascot,” he explained. “Also, Annie and Archie just sounds good!”

Like Williams, peregrine falcons are fast — they’re the fastest animals in the world, capable of diving at more than 200 miles per hour.

In Marin County, four species of falcons, including peregrines, are in the skies throughout the year. Archie Williams High School in San Anselmo advertises itself as “Home of the Peregrine Falcons.” In May 2021, an elected committee changed the school’s name from Drake High School to instead honor Williams, citing English explorer Sir Francis Drake as a slave trader, slave owner, colonizer and part of the legacy of white supremacy.

Annie and Archie, the peregrine falcon couple living on the Campanile, stand face to face in their nest box and touch beaks.

Annie (on the right) and Archie, her new mate, check each other out in the nest box on the UC Berkeley Campanile.

Cal Falcons for UC Berkeley

At Berkeley, Annie, the campus’s longtime female falcon, and Archie, who became her partner in early January following the disappearance of Annie’s previous mate, Lou, are busy mating on the Campanile, their home. Annie’s egg-laying — this will be her eighth breeding season — usually occurs in mid-March, with hatching taking place in April.

“I would not at all be surprised if Annie delays a little bit due to the rainy weather,” said Peterson. “One of the few ways a peregrine falcon nest can fail is if the eggs get too cold/wet, so the falcons do keep an eye on the weather. It's not the only characteristic they care about, though. We've definitely had some rainy years when Annie's laid early, too.”

Annie and the three mates she’s had since she arrived on campus in late 2016 have been given names, as have the 18 chicks that have hatched so far in the nest on the campus’s bell tower. The parents’ names traditionally relate to UC Berkeley.

“Unlike most peregrine falcons, which migrate extensively, those that live in the Bay Area stay here all year round. That means that Annie and Archie live on campus pretty much all the time,” said Peterson. “Because they're fixtures on campus and will hopefully stick around for a number of years, we decided to link their names to their home at Cal.” 

The names of each year's chicks, which fly away in the spring, need not be tied to the campus, but sometimes are, such as Fiat and Lux (2017); Berkelium, Lawrencium and Californium (2018); and Grinnell Jr. (2022).

Archie, the new male falcon at UC Berkeley, takes off from the Campanile with his feet in the air and his wings in a V-shape over his head. His head, back and wings are dark gray, his leg feathers and cream and gray striped, and his feet are orange. He is looking downward.

Archie lifts off from the Campanile. He's the latest mate for Annie, Berkeley's longtime female peregrine falcon, who had bad luck with previous partners Grinnell, Alden and Lou.

Bridget Ahern for UC Berkeley

Naming the falcons, rather than only giving them ID bands, “is an awesome way of engaging the community and provides a bit of a personal link to people,” said Peterson. “I think there's something to be said for humans’ tendency to care for something they relate to, and it's just easier to relate to something named Archie rather than some sort of gibberish string of an ID number. It allows people to form relatively strong relationships.

“If someone hears that Zephyr, one of last year’s chicks, is re-found, they can immediately recall all of the favorite moments we had with him. The same is not quite as true if we said, ‘Hey, we found 68/BA!’. There are definitely other programs that also name their falcons, including some that have made it into a contest, following our example. It's pretty fun to see the names at nests across the world.”

Annie’s had back luck with mates since the death of Grinnell in 2022 and the disappearance of her subsequent mates, Alden and Lou. But Peterson said the public’s interest in Berkeley’s falcons and in Cal Falcons, a volunteer group of about 10 scientists, educators and conservationists, isn’t waning and continues to be a global activity.

“There still are thousands of people weighing in on social media and voting for their favorite names for the Berkeley falcons,” said Peterson. “We still regularly hear from fans all over the world. … I’ve seen people from Denmark, Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Brazil chiming in recently.”