Friday, November 26, 2021

Berkeley has a bird’s eye view of the love triangle of falcons

At the University of California at Berkeley, a scandal flares up, in the center of which is the flirting of an intruder and an injured comrade.

Grinnell and Annie have settled on the summit of Campanile, a 307-foot bell tower and clock tower overlooking the campus since at least 2016. Peregrine falcons are resourceful, territorial birds, and they usually mate for life.

But last month, 8-year-old Grinnell was found badly injured at a tennis club about two miles from his nest.

The Good Samaritan caught the bird on October 28 and took it to Lindsay Rehabilitation Hospital in Walnut Creek, where doctors found it badly beaten. He did not have a large spot of feathers on his chin and neck. One of the raptor’s wings was damaged, and the tip of its upper beak was broken off.

The good news is Grinnell is expected to make a full recovery. But try saying that to Annie.

The female falcon, estimated by researchers to be at least 7 years old, appears to be dating another male groom while Grinnell is in the hospital, much to the dismay of the local avian community, which has watched the couple’s relationship flourish over the years.

To make matters worse, researchers say Annie’s new beau is one of two birds that attacked Grinnell.

The love triangle unfolds on nest cameras that researchers installed in 2019, and like any good reality TV show, everyone has their own opinion.

“No Annie !!” posted by one Facebook commenter. “Grinnell is still alive! Don’t fall for this new guy !! “

Another Grinnell fan wrote, “I wish my heart wouldn’t break over this, but alas, I’m weak for survival of the fittest.”

Sean Peterson, a UC Berkeley PhD student studying wetland birds, and his wife Lynn Schofield run CalFalcons camcorders and a falcon social media page. He said that once it became clear that Grinnell was not in imminent danger, people decided they didn’t like the new guy trying to attack.

“On a personal level, if Grinnell could recover and return to his territory, I would be happy,” said Schofield, who works with the nonprofit Bird Population Institute. “But as a biologist, I want the best for the species.”

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A few decades ago, watching falcons – not to mention their personal lives – was only a vague dream, Peterson said.

This species was on the verge of extinction due to harmful pesticides and by the 1970s had dwindled to two breeding pairs in the continental United States. A breeding program run by captive falconers has helped the species recover.

The Berkeley researchers first met Grinnell in 2013 as a chick, and Annie arrived a few years later. Their personalities have evolved over the years, and those studying the pair have learned quite a bit about birds. For example, Grinnell sits with his partner’s eggs longer than most male falcons.

“He’s a really good dad,” Peterson said over the phone.

“Annie is territorial and especially great for a female falcon,” Schofield said during a phone call. “Her personality tends to be more dominant.”

“She’s aggressive,” Peterson put in. “Whenever we are at nest level, she always tries to attack us.”

Grinnell underwent minor surgery to close the wound in the wing and is taking antibiotics and other medications. Peter Flowers, manager of Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital, said the battered bird is recovering but may not be standing for another month.

“We have to take it day in and day out,” Flowers said.

Meanwhile, a new young guy settled in Annie’s house. There is another woman, but Peterson said that Annie is terribly receptive to the new man in her life.

However, there is hope and time for a reunion between Grinnell and Annie, Schofield said. Falcons usually don’t mate until February, and Grinnell may return, fight for his territory and force the new male out of the nest. Or he could just walk away and find a new helper.

The breakup probably touched the fans of the couple.

“Fans love these birds as a family, but they are distraught that the family could fall apart,” Peterson said. “This is what happens to nature.”

Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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