California Condors produce first egg of the season at World Center for Birds of Prey
11 February 2011BOISE, Idaho – A pair of captive California Condors officially launched the breeding season at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey by laying the first egg of the season on Wednesday, February 9.
Biologists discovered the white 4-inch, 10-ounce egg first thing in the morning. It had been laid sometime during the previous night by a 13-year-old female that has produced 8 eggs in the past.
“It’s always a thrill to see the first egg of the season,” said Marti Jenkins, who oversees The Peregrine Fund’s condor propagation program. “For the next few months, we will have our hands full making sure that all the eggs and chicks are healthy and ultimately ready for life in the wild.”
The World Center for Birds of Prey is home to 57 condors, the world’s largest captive flock. Currently, 19 pairs are expected to produce offspring this year. In addition to the Idaho facility, condors are produced at the Los Angeles Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Oregon Zoo.
In 14 days, biologists will determine whether a chick is growing inside the new egg. If it is fertile, the egg will be artificially incubated until it is ready to hatch. Then, it will be either returned to its parents or swapped with an egg from another breeding facility and raised by foster parents to ensure genetic diversity among the small but growing population of condors. The egg is expected to hatch in early April.
After hatching, chicks are raised by their natural or foster parents for about a year before they can be released to the wild. The Peregrine Fund’s release site is located at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument near the Grand Canyon. After the birds are released, the field staff monitors their movements via tracking equipment attached to the birds’ wings and takes action if the condors are poisoned, injured or exhibiting behavior that makes them susceptible to predation or persecution.
Currently, the world’s total population of critically endangered California Condors numbers 370. Of those, 181 are flying free in the wild, with 74 of those in the Grand Canyon region. The remaining birds in the wild are in California and Baja Mexico.
During the Pleistocene, condors soared over much of the southern United States from the Pacific Coast east to Florida and north to New York, but they became extinct throughout much of this range 10,000 years ago. By the early 1800s, California Condors were limited to the Pacific Coast and could be found only from British Columbia, Canada, to Baja California, Mexico. Finally, by 1982, shooting, poisoning, and other factors had reduced the condor population to just 22 individuals in California.
An intensive recovery program began in the early 1980s when the continuing decline of the condor population required drastic measures. In 1982, wild chicks were removed from nests to be reared in zoos. From 1983 to 1987, additional condors were taken into captivity, most as eggs that were hatched at zoos in Los Angeles and San Diego, California. In 1987, the last free-flying birds were brought into captivity for their security and for breeding purposes. By then, the total population numbered 27.
The first successful captive breeding of California Condors occurred in 1988, and releases into the wild began in California in 1992. The Peregrine Fund began raising condors at the World Center for Birds of Prey in 1993, then releasing them to the wild near the Grand Canyon in 1996.
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