Cal’s main attraction? For nesting peregrines, it’s the Campanile

June 7, 2017

When Doug Bell heard that a pair of peregrine falcons was nesting on the Campanile, he couldn’t believe his luck. An avid falconer, Bell has been fascinated with peregrines — the fastest animal in the world — since he was a kid growing up in Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in zoology from UC Berkeley, where he studied ornithology and systematic biology. But never before had he heard of peregrines nesting on top of the campus’s 300-foot-high bell tower. “It blew me away,” he says. 

The female peregrine falcon on the second balcony ledge of the Campanile, close to her nest (Photo by Doug Bell)

Bell, now a wildlife program manager with the East Bay Regional Park District, says peregrine falcons were once on the brink of extinction, in large part caused by the widespread use of the pesticide DDT and the country’s misguided assault on predatory animals. In the early 1970s, however, peregrine falcons caught a break. DDT was banned and the Endangered Species Act was passed, among other wildlife regulatory laws. In the years since, peregrines have made a remarkable comeback.

As the numbers of peregrine falcons have increased, they’ve begun moving from their natural cliff faces into urban areas, laying their eggs on skyscrapers and other tall buildings, such as the Campanile. Berkeley News spoke with Bell about the Campanile’s first-known peregrine falcon family, and how the top-speed bird has soared back from the brink of extinction.

Read the interview with Bell by the Berkeley News: