Archive for December, 2008

Biologists Locate Dead Condor Chick in Big Sur

Posted at 1:05 pm December 22, 2008 by admin

For Immediate Release:
December 22, 2008
Big Sur, California

Biologists from Ventana Wildlife Society’s condor recovery project in Big Sur made a grim discovery on Sunday, Dec. 21.  They found the lifeless body of a wild California Condor chick lying in thick brush beneath a tall stand of redwoods, only one half mile from it’s coastal nest site.  The wild male chick, known as No. 475, was recently observed making short flights in the nest area, which is normal behavior for a 9-month-old condor.  Condor No. 475 was wearing a radio tag that alerted biologists there was trouble when it began emitting a mortality signal on the morning of Dec. 21. Ventana Wildlife Society biologists, Mike Tyner and Jessica Koning, tracked the signal through thick brush into a very steep coastal ravine and finally located the chick lying motionless on the ground.  Condor No. 475 will be examined more closely at San Diego Zoo’s pathology lab. The cause of death is unknown at this time.

Condor 475 is one of three wild chicks produced by the wild condor flock in Big Sur this year.  The other two surviving wild chicks, No. 470 and No. 477, continue to grow strong and are a little further along in development.

“It’s always very difficult to lose such a young condor like #475.  We really wish all of the chicks could make it”, commented Joe Burnett, Ventana Wildlife Society senior wildlife biologist.

Last year the Big Sur flock produced two wild condor chicks and one survived, which is expected naturally, a 50 percent survival rate for condor chicks in the wild.  This year three chicks were raised in wild nests and two are still alive.

“While the loss of a wild chick is never easy, we still feel very fortunate to have two of the three chicks surviving in the wild this year,” said Kelly Sorenson, Ventana Wildlife Society executive director.

Ventana Wildlife Society biologists believe that there could be as many as four wild condor chicks just in Big Sur in 2009. The condor population reached an all-time low of 22 in 1982. Through captive breeding and subsequent releases, the total condor population now stands at 326.  In central California, there are 47 free-flying condors (three of which are wild-born).

Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

Posted at 3:41 pm December 19, 2008 by admin

A message from the executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society:

We are excited to share with you a video update on our progress to rebuild our Condor Sanctuary in Big Sur.  To all of you who have supported us through this challenging time, we want to thank you and hope that you watch the video and share it with others.  We want to especially thank Oakland Zoo, Oregon Zoo, San Diego Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Pinnacles National Monument, and US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as REI, Inc., Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, West Valley Bird Society, South Bay Bird Society, BBR, LLP, Mountain Tools and the many individuals who contributed to the Condor Emergency Fund.

In 2009, we will continue rebuilding the Sanctuary and will work to ensure the safety of wild condor chicks and the entire flock as a whole.  We will continue to protect the birds from threats such as lead poisoning.  Our ultimate goal is to return the condor to the wild so that they can survive on their own again.  As of today, there are 327 condors living and over half of those are in the wild.  In fact, for the first time in the history of the recovery effort there are now more condors in the wild than in captivity.

Kelly Sorenson
Executive Director

Wild-hatched Chicks Add to Growing Flock of California Condors

Posted at 2:15 pm December 16, 2008 by admin


DECEMBER 16, 2008

The Peregrine Fund

BOISE, Idaho - Two California Condor chicks fledged from their nests in the Grand Canyon in December, bringing the world’s population of endangered California Condors now flying free in the wild to 169. This is the first year that there are more condors flying free than are in captivity for breeding purposes.
“This shows that we are making real progress in bringing this ecologically significant bird back from the brink of extinction,” said Bill Heinrich, who oversees the condor recovery program for The Peregrine Fund, a Boise-based conservation organization for birds of prey. “I am thrilled that these two chicks appear to be doing well and I hope they will survive to become productive members of the flock.”
Currently, the total number of California Condors is 327, with 158 in captivity. Of the 169 condors in the wild, 67 are in Arizona and 83 are in California. There also are 19 California Condors flying free in Mexico. The goal is to produce at least 150 members in each of the U.S. populations, including at least 15 breeding pairs.
The Peregrine Fund breeds and produces condors at its World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise and releases them to the wild in northern Arizona. Eight wild condor chicks also hatched this year in California, where a geographically separate population is being produced by zoos, along with The Peregrine Fund.
California Condors are some of the world’s rarest birds. Their numbers had dropped to just 22 individuals when the recovery program began in the 1980s. Because condors eat carrion, they help fulfill the role that scavengers play in the environment by consuming dead animal carcasses that might otherwise spread disease and foul land and water resources.
The Grand Canyon chicks, which hatched in May, were produced by two sets of condor parents nesting in the canyon’s remote ledges and caves. The chicks were first observed testing their wings with short flights in September and October. One of the chicks was produced by the same adult pair that in 2003 hatched the first wild condor chick in the Grand Canyon in more than 100 years. The other chick belongs to first-time parents. The adult female is the last bird remaining from the group that was released when the Arizona
recovery program began in 1996.
This month’s fledglings make a total of nine wild chicks hatched in the Grand Canyon since 1996. Eight are still alive.
The largest survival challenge facing the two new chicks and all condors is lead poisoning from lost or unretrieved remains of animals shot with lead ammunition, Heinrich said. The Peregrine Fund works with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and local hunting groups on an awareness campaign that has produced a dramatic increase in the number of hunters who voluntarily switch to copper bullets or other non-lead alternatives in condor country, with a corresponding drop in condor deaths due to lead poisoning.
“We are grateful to all the hunters who are valued partners in restoring California Condors to their historic range,” Heinrich said.
Nevertheless, every condor must be captured twice each year and tested for
lead poisoning. Because they are social eaters, it is possible for just one carcass to poison several birds. Condors are treated with chelation, a process that removes lead from a bird’s body, and re-released to the wild. None treated this year have yet died from lead poisoning.
“Until we significantly reduce the amount of lead they are exposed to, we will never have a self-sustaining population of condors,” Heinrich said. “We look forward to the day when they no longer need us to survive.”

Did you know?
*    Prior to reintroduction, the last wild condor in Arizona was sighted just south of the Grand Canyon in 1924.
*    Condors reach maturity at about six years of age. They usually produce one egg every other year.
*    Recovery and reintroduction cooperators include The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Name that Bird!

Posted at 4:29 pm December 2, 2008 by Ron Webb

           We get many questions regarding the names (or ID’s) of California condors. “What’s that one’s name?” “What language is it and what does it mean?” “Why did the one I saw at the Grand Canyon have a number instead of a name?” For all intents and purposes, it really doesn’t matter what we call each condor; they could really care less! But, we, as humans, like to label each being and object, hence the creation and use of Taxonomy, the science of labeling and naming every living thing on earth. (more…)

Xananan the Traveler

Posted at 12:14 pm December 2, 2008 by Ron Webb

            Fans of the California Condor Recovery Program may be familiar with Condor #321. She was the condor who, in April 2007, flew north from her release site in the Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park, in Baja California, Mexico, across the international border into California. This marked the first time that a California condor had been seen flying free in San Diego County since 1910! (more…)