Tag Archives: California condor

NOW LIVE: Watch newly hatched California condor chick live on ‘Condor Cam’

For the sixth year, people from around the globe can get up-close-and-personal with an endangered California condor chick in real-time through live streaming video of a cliff-side nest in a canyon near the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California. 

California condor chick #1075 hatched on April 10, 2021. Its parents are ten-year-old female condor #594 and 15-year-old male condor #374. This is the pair’s first nesting attempt together and they are using a nest cavity used in 2018 by #374 and his former mate. Female condor #594 previously paired with male condor #462 in 2018 and 2020, successfully fledging one chick each year. This year marks male condor #374’s sixth nesting attempt at raising a chick; he has successfully fledged four chicks in previous years. 

Followers of the California Condor Cam watched a chick hatch live in the wild for the first time in history from another cliff-side nest on Hopper Mountain NWR in 2016. Each year livestreaming video of California condor chicks gains worldwide attention – attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers from all over the world.

“The condor cams do an incredible job of lowering the barriers to experiencing the beauty and challenges of being a condor. Each of the adults has an incredible backstory that can stretch decades, and for viewers to witness the next generation of condors while watching from anywhere in the world is a testament to the continuing power of this successful conservation story,” said Charles Eldermire, Cornell Lab Bird Cams project leader. “That’s not just good for viewers—it’s good for the condors, too.”

The 2020 nesting season resulted in just one successfully fledged chick, condor #1048, from parents #594 and #462, though the future is looking bright for 2021 with 11 active nests in the Southern California flock. 

“We are thankful for our many partners in this effort and optimistic about the future of the California Condor Recovery Program, despite last year’s disappointing nesting season. We’re excited to see a bounce back from last year,” said Arianna Punzalan, supervisory wildlife biologist with the Service’s California Condor Recovery Program.

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 just over 500 birds worldwide, with more than half of the population flying free.

“The condor program is a clear example of the strength of public-private partnerships in achieving conservation objectives,” said Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Director of Conservation and Science. “We’re so excited to be streaming again in 2021 with a new condor pair. What will the future hold for 594 and 374? Only time will tell, and through the support of our Condor Cam partners, we will learn together with viewers all around the world!” 

In California, wild condors nest, roost or fly in the mountains of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The wild population continues to grow, and will someday include condors from a newly designated release site in the Pacific Northwest.

The number one killer of California condors is still 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 continue their proud tradition of wildlife conservation by using these non-lead alternatives.

Another threat specific to condor chicks is “micro trash.” Micro trash refers to 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.

Conservation efforts toward the recovery of the California condor are achieved only through partnerships amongst federal and state agencies, together with private landowners and organizations. The Huttons 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 Zoo, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and Friends of California Condors Wild and Free. 

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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 Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, 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 Masai giraffe, California condor, radiated tortoise, island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. Visit www.sbzoo.org

The Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology (WFVZ) is both a natural history collection specializing in eggs and nests of birds from all over the world, and a research and education institution dedicated to studying and teaching about the conservation of the world’s bird species. The WFVZ has contributed information to thousands of research projects since its inception in 1956.  Visit us at www.wfvz.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

An Oasis for Animals and Humans Alike

After three months of being closed to the public in response to the pandemic, the Santa Barbara Zoo reopened in June. 

“The Zoo has been an amazing respite where families can congregate in a safe way,” says Board Chair George Leis. “That has been very meaningful for me; a touch of normalcy in a very confused world.” 

But it isn’t just humans finding respite at Santa Barbara’s world-renowned zoo. Through its conservation programs and the exciting opening of its new Australian Walkabout exhibit in summer 2021, the Zoo is busy protecting animal species ranging from California’s Western snowy plover to Australia’s Bennett’s wallaby.

The Zoo’s President and CEO, Rich Block, points to the Zoo’s now 18-year commitment to bring the California condor back from the brink of extinction. Part of a broad coalition of other zoos and federal agencies, the Santa Barbara Zoo has helped bring the population back from a mere 22 birds in 1987 to more than 500 today. In wild condor country (such as the Sespe Wilderness), Zoo staff can regularly be seen scaling sheer cliffs to get eyes on chicks and ensure their safety. And they assist in rounding up the birds each year to check the population’s health. 

“The people who work with them know these birds like avid soap opera fans,” Block says. “They know all the characters, know all the bonds, and all the cheating. It’s an incredible drama.” 

Within the Zoo’s walls, the deaths in 2018 and 2019 of beloved elephants Sujatha and Little Mac created a physical and emotional void that impacted the entire community. The Zoo’s experienced Animal Care team, along with outside partners, researched a multitude of options before narrowing down species and experiences that would be best for the animals and Zoo guests. 

Rooted in its conservation focus, the Zoo team landed on an “up close and down under” experience which will allow visitors to actually walk through the exhibit and get close to kangaroos, wallabies, and emus. While Australia has incredible biodiversity – more than 100,000 species of animals have been described so far – the wildfires of 2019-20 helped propel it to the dubious distinction of having the most rapid rate of mammal extinctions worldwide. 

“This new immersive exhibit is exciting for us and our Zoo guests. It perfectly complements our mission of bringing people and animals together for safe, inspiring, educational, and fun experiences. This will be a totally different Zoo opportunity, providing a wonderful added new dimension for visitors while supporting our commitment to conservation,” commented Block.