VERMILION CLIFFS, Arizona – Biologists confirmed that a California Condor chick -- now about one week old -- has hatched in the wild at a new nest site near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, northeast of the Grand Canyon.
Biologists began monitoring the site several months ago after discovering the parents engaged in courtship and nesting behaviors. They made visual confirmation of an egg on February 24 and confirmed the presence of the chick on April 22.
“Each wild hatchling gives us confidence that condors are well on their way to recovery,” said Chris Parish, condor project director for The Peregrine Fund in Arizona. The Peregrine Fund produces additional condor chicks in captivity in Boise, Idaho, and transfers the chicks to Arizona as part of a cooperative program by federal, state, and private partners.
This is the 13th chick hatched in the wild since condors were first released in Arizona in 1996. Nine remain a part of the wild population, Parish said. The new chick is expected to take its first flight and join the rest of the wild flock in six months. It will remain dependent on its parents for approximately 18 months.
One female and two males shared incubation duties and are now brooding and feeding the new chick, Parish said. Three adults involved in courtship behavior is not particularly unusual, he said, but this is the first time a trio has produced a chick in the history of the recovery program.
The adult condors all hatched at the World Center for Birds of Prey, located in Boise, Idaho. One of males is 13 years old. The other male and the female are 10 years old.
The newest member of the species brings the total number of California Condors in the world to 375. Of those, 194 are in the wild, with 74 in the Arizona-Utah population. In the 1980s, the population had plunged to just 22.
“The greatest obstacle to a self-sustaining population of California Condors continues to be lead poisoning, the leading cause of death,” Parish said. The condors ingest lead fragments after eating carrion and entrails from animals that have been shot with lead ammunition. The bullets disperse dozens of tiny particles of lead as small as a grain of salt throughout the animal. These particles are enough to cause lead toxicity in condors when they scavenge on the remains.
Since 2005, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has offered a voluntary non-lead ammunition program for hunters in northern Arizona, the condors’ core range. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources began a similar program to benefit condors that have expanded their foraging range to Zion National Park and surrounding areas.
Other partners in the condor reintroduction program in Arizona include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Kaibab National Forest.
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