The Mercury News
Naming of newest falcon mate echoes real love story
BERKELEY >> He already has made himself at home in a perch next to Annie, the beloved peregrine falcon that has roosted atop UC Berkeley's Campanile tower since 2016.
Now the lady's newest love has a name: Lou. Which doesn't seem the least bit unusual for a male falcon — until you find out it's short for Louise.
“Lou” is a nod to Louise Kellogg, the partner of Annie's human namesake, Annie Alexander, who founded the Cal's Museum of Paleontology and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.
The moniker was chosen from seven finalists in a naming contest sponsored by Cal Falcons, a fan group for the birds. After a week's worth of ballots were counted, Lou came out on top, earning 28% of the 4,728 votes cast. The top three runners-up? Marshawn, Archie and Morgan.
Lou started wooing UC Berkeley's cherished female falcon with prey deliveries in January, dropping off small animals and birds on the tower's perch looking out on the Bay.
The male falcon is Annie's third partner in a year. Her longtime mate Grinnell died in downtown Berkeley last March, after they had been together for six years. Alden, who swooped into the empty nest within hours, disappeared in November.
After a 2022 chock full of loss, will the third time be the charm for long-lasting falcon love? It would be fitting, considering the human counterparts to Annie and Lou have a storied past of their own.
Kellogg and Alexander spent most of the first half of the 20th century in a committed relationship, according to an online archive of UC Berkeley's LGBTQ history. After starting as travel companions on a 1908 trip to Alaska to collect plant, animal and paleontological specimens, the two ended up spending 42 years together in partnership.
Sean Peterson, an environmental biologist with Cal Falcons who voted for the name Lou, pointed to the fact that the real-life couple were able to carve out a successful life together, despite not living in the most gay-friendly era.
“I think the story of Annie
and Louise really resonated with people,” Peterson said in a release from UC Berkeley. “It's a classic love-triumphing-over-adversity story.”
Since arriving in Berkeley seven years ago, the birds have amassed a flock of fans both on campus and online; some have sold shirts featuring the falcons' likenesses. Falcon memes and art projects abound. This is a phenomenon that some have dubbed “bird joy,” according to Glenn Phillips, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society.
Though a lot of bird lovers actually do not approve of naming wild animals — fearing that more harm will come from anthropomorphizing their natural behaviors and needs — Phillips appreciates how the practice can increase the compassion people feel towards other creatures.
“Birds, in general, are just really charismatic. They engage us, they're beautiful, they're interesting, they're majestic and they just capture our imagination,” Phillips said. “When you have the opportunity to see birds up close and personal, you can't help but be drawn in and sort of start to identify with them as individuals — there's something kind of magical about it. There's nothing more wild than a falcon, and here they are nesting on buildings and hunting for food right in our right in our backyard.”
As falcon populations were once in danger of being wiped out, he said, live webcams and social media posts may be some of the safest ways for people to appreciate them.
“There's just something soothing about watching a bird preening herself as she sits on the nest, sort of like everything's OK in the world,” Phillips said. “The quiet moments of nature can help lower our blood pressure, improve the quality of our lives and increase our happiness. It's a really neat thing that we can share.”