Oregon Zoo Celebrates Hatching of Its First Spring Condor

Posted at 12:17 pm April 17, 2009 by admin

New condor chick brings species closer to recovery

041709_condoradult2.jpgPORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo’s festive eggs are filled with something much more than Cadbury Creme this year - they’re filled with fledgling California condors!

The first condor chick of 2009 pecked through its shell the morning of April 14, signaling the start of another remarkable hatching season at the Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation. The chick is the offspring of Ojai and Atishwin and was hatched under the care of its foster parents, the male condor No. 189 and the female Squapuni.

“Each new hatch brings us one step closer to species recovery,” said Shawn St. Michael, Oregon Zoo condor curator. “Our program is relatively new, but growing in strength each year.”

Seven condor pairs produced eggs this year, and six of the eggs have proved fertile. The Zoo’s condor facility is currently home to 31 condors, not counting the new arrival, and has produced 19 fertile eggs since it was established in 2001. Of the 16 eggs already hatched, 15 chicks have survived.

Condors are the largest land birds in North America with wingspans of up to 10 feet and weight of 18 to 30 pounds. They are highly intelligent and inquisitive - and highly endangered.

041709_condoradult.jpgThe birds depend on their intelligence for survival and require a tremendous amount of parental investment in the wild. This is one of the reasons they have such a low productivity rate.

Normally, condors only lay a single egg every other year, but at the breeding centers this process can be sped up. If the egg is moved from the nest to an incubator for hatching, female condors will usually lay a second egg and sometimes a third. This procedure is known as double- or triple-clutching, and has dramatically increased condor numbers since the breeding program began.

These magnificent birds have a long history in Oregon, where archaeologists have unearthed 9,000-year-old condor bones from Native American middens. Condors were a common motif for the designs of Oregon’s Wasco people, who lived along the Columbia River between The Dalles and Cascade Locks. The condor was considered a guide to the native peoples and a key character in many myths.

The last condor seen in Oregon was near the town of Drain in 1904. Condors held out a little longer in California, but by 1987, only 17 remained in the wild. In an attempt to save the species, biologists decided to place the remaining condors in a breeding program. The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Today, there are nearly 300 California condors counting those in captivity and in the wild.

The Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts take place at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County on Metro-owned open land. The remoteness of the facility minimizes the exposure of young condors to people, increasing the chances for zoo-hatched birds to survive and breed in the wild.

In 2001, the Oregon Zoo became the third zoo in the nation to join the California Condor Recovery Program. California condor breeding programs are also operated at San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo and The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey. The Oregon Zoo received The Wildlife Society’s conservation award in 2005 for “creating the nation’s fourth California condor breeding facility.”

For more information about the Oregon Zoo’s California condors, visit www.oregonzoo.org/Condors/index.htm.

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington’s pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles, and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63. Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.

Contacts: Bill LaMarche 503-220-2448 (office) or 503-497-5812 (pager)
Linda D’Ae-Smith 503-220-5716 (office) or 503-441-7573 (pager)

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