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(credit: Joseph Brandt/USFWS)   

Thursday, May 31, 2018

NOW LIVE: Watch endangered California condor chick in the wild live during record-breaking nesting season on ‘Condor Cam’

FILLMORE, California – People across the world can get up-close-and-personal with an endangered California condor chick in real-time through livestreaming video of a wild nest located near the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California. The chick and its parents make up one of the 12 California condor nests in the mountains of Ventura, Santa Barbara and Kern counties - the highest number of nests ever recorded in southern California.

“Watching a condor chick and its parents in the wild is a unique and remarkable experience, and one that can be shared with millions of viewers through livestreaming technology,” said Molly Astell, wildlife biologist with the Service’s California Condor Recovery Program.

The 2018 nesting season marks a significant milestone for California condor recovery with more wild nests documented in southern California than ever recorded. “Not only do we have more nests, but they are also spread out across a broader area, indicating that California condors continue to expand back into parts of their historic range,” Astell said.

California condor chick #923 hatched on April 6 and is being raised by sixteen-year-old female condor #289 and thirteen-year-old male condor #374. This is the pair’s first year to be featured on the livestreaming Condor Cam, and is the pair’s first attempt at raising a chick together though both previously nested with other condors in the past.  The chick’s father, condor #374 has fledged 3 other chicks in the past with two previous mates. The mother, condor #289, has fledged one chick previously and has nested with three other mates.

a california condor egg in a nest  newly hatched california condor chick 924
A California Condor egg in a nest                                                                                                  A newly hatched California Condor chick (credit: Joseph Brandt/USFWS) 

Followers of the California Condor Cam watched a chick hatch live in the wild for the first time in history from a cliffside nest at Hopper Mountain NWR in 2015. Since then, livestreaming video of California condor chicks at the refuge have gained worldwide attention – nearly two million views from more than 190 countries and 34 million minutes, or 65 years of watch time.

“Until now, only a handful of biologists had the privilege to observe wild condor nests. They had to trek into the remote backcountry and wait for days, sometimes weeks, at observation blinds located hundreds of feet from the nests to catch a glimpse of the birds,” says Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s director of conservation and science. “Today’s technology allows researchers like us to observe a number of nests with high precision – and in high def. That enables more efficient nest management and research for us, and allows anyone with an internet connection to share in the excitement of scientific discovery.”

Conservation efforts toward the recovery of the California condor are achieved only through partnerships amongst federal and state agencies, together with private land owners and other organizations. The Hutton's Bowl Condor Cam is made possible through access provided by private landowners, and through the financial and technical support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Santa Barbara ZooCornell Lab of Ornithology, the Western Foundation of Vertebrate ZoologyDisney Conservation Fund, and Friends of California Condors Wild and Free

In California, wild condors are found in the mountains of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Kern counties, and most recently in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Tulare and Fresno counties. In 2017, California condors were spotted roosting in the western Sierras for the first time in nearly 40 years.

The number of California condors dropped dramatically in the mid-20th century, leading the Service to designate the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. By 1982 there were only 22 of the iconic birds left in the wild.  Today, due to intensive, ongoing captive breeding and recovery efforts led by the Service in conjunction with multiple public and private partners, the California condor population has grown to around 470 birds worldwide, with more than half of the population flying free.  

Today the number one killer of California condors is lead poisoning, caused by condors feeding on carcasses containing lead bullet fragments. Peer-reviewed research shows that lead poisoning is a serious health problem for both wildlife and humans, and the Service is working with partner organizations and the hunting community as it transitions to the use of non-lead ammunition alternatives. Hunters are continuing their proud tradition of wildlife conservation by using these non-lead alternatives.

Another threat specific to condor chicks is “micro trash.” Micro trash are small coin-sized trash items such as, nuts, bolts, washers, copper wire, plastic, bottle caps, glass, and spent ammunition cartridges. Condor parents collect these items and feed them to their chick which can cause serious problems with the chick’s development. While it is not completely understood why this occurs, many biologists believe that the condor parents mistake these items for pieces of bone and shell which provides a source of calcium if fed to the chick.

"Last year's breeding season culminated in the first condor chick to fledge successfully from one of our livestreamed sites,” said Charles Eldermire, Cornell Bird Cams project leader. “We're hoping we get to observe #923 taking that first leap from the nest ledge this year."

 (Press Release from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Santa Barbara Zoo, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


To watch the Condor Cam, visit: www.allaboutbirds.org/condors

For answers to frequently asked questions about the nest cam, the parents and the chick, visit: https://www.fws.gov/cno/es/CalCondor/CondorCam.html

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/cno or connect with us via FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Flickr.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at birds.cornell.edu

The Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to more than 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA cooperative programs for endangered species including Asian elephant, California condor, Channel Island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. Visit www.sbzoo.org.


 california condors 563 and 237 near their nest
(credit: Joseph Brandt/USFWS)   

Hutton's Bowl Nest FAQ

How old are the adults and how long have they been together?
The parents of the chick in the Hutton's Bowl nest are mom #289 and dad #374. Both parents were hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo. Dad #374 hatched in 2005 and mom #289 hatched in 2002. This is their first nesting attempt together but both parents have had previous mates. Condor #374 first nested in 2012 and has had two previous mates and a total of three nests prior to 2018. Each of his prior nests fledged a chick. Condor #289 began nesting in 2008 with a total of 5 prior attempts with three previous mates. She successfully fledged one chick.

What do their names mean?
The parent’s names, or in fact numbers, represent their studbook number. Upon hatch, every condor is assigned a number which acts as a way to identify each individual. Since 1983, every known condor has been assigned a studbook number in chronological order. The lower the number, the older the condor. A studbook is an important tool in scientifically managing populations of threatened and endangered animals and is updated annually to reflect new hatches, deaths, transfers, and releases. This information may then be used to manage the captive populations to minimize inbreeding and grow populations to a sustainable level. The California Condor International Studbook is maintained and prepared by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

How can you tell which one is the male and which one is the female?
It’s very difficult to tell males from females. In general the males are slightly larger. The only sure ways to tell the sexes apart are to see certain behaviors such as copulation or egg-laying, or by using a DNA test. Every California condor in the southern California flock has been tagged and sexed. In this nesting territory, male #374 wears a blue tag which represents the 300 studbook series and female #289 wears a yellow tag which represents the 200 studbook series. The studbook number for the chick is #923

When the nestling is four months old, he/she will also receive a handmade wing tag with a sewn-in radio transmitter. This tag will be black with white lettering.

Where are the nest located?
This condor nest is near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge located on property managed by another federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

Do the condors use the same nest each year?
Sometimes. They typically nest in the same general area as condor pairs tend to establish a nesting territory. Pairs will sometimes use the same nest year after year but other times they will move to a new cavity within their territory from year to year. This is a cavity that was used by #374 and a previous mate in 2016.

Wing Tagging

What is wing tag?
All condors are tagged with at least one distinct color/number wing-mounted tags for identification in the field. Both of the parents are also wearing wing-mounted GPS transmitters which biologists use to track their movements in the wild while they are away from the nest.

Condors cannot be given traditional bird bands because they show a thermoregulatory behavior called urohydrosis, in which they drench their legs with their own excreta during hot weather. This cools first their legs then their entire bodies via cooled blood from the legs circulating throughout the body. Urohydrosis is very unusual in the bird world, being found elsewhere only in the storks and certain boobies, and is one of the principal behaviors linking the vulturids to the storks.

condor wing tag
(credit: Joseph Brandt/USFWS)   

What do the different numbers stand for on the tags?
The numbers on the wing tags represent the last  one or two digits of the bird’s studbook number. Female condor #289 wears a yellow tag with the number “89” and male #374 wears a blue tag with the number “74”. Be sure to let us know if you see any unusual tagged condors visiting the nest!

What information do you have about the birds on the camera?
The condor chick in the Hutton Bowl nest hatched on April 6, 2018 from an egg that was laid on Feb 7, 2018. The chick was assigned studbook number #923.
The parents are mom #289 and dad #374. This will be first nesting attempt as a pair.
Both of the parents were hatched in captivity at the Los Angeles Zoo. Condor #289 is the elder of the pair having hatched in 2002 and then released into the wild at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in 2003. Condor 374 hatched in 2005 and released at the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in 2007.

Before this year, condor #374 was previously paired with females #180 and then #79. He and successfully fledged condors #648 and #733 with female #180  He and female #79 successfully fledged condors #846. Unfortunately, female #180 went missing in the wild and was declared dead in 2016, and #79 was removed from the wild after she was found to be suffering from cataracts and is currently rehabilitated. Female #289 was previously mated with males, #98, #239, and #21. While she has nested five times prior to this year she only fledged one chick, #670, with male #239. Of her previous mates, condor #98 is still alive and in the wild, #239 went missing in the wild in 2013 and #21 also went missing in the wild in 2016.

 

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