BOISE, Idaho – The first eggs in both the wild flock of California Condors in Arizona and Utah and the captive flock in Idaho were observed last week, marking the start of what biologists hope is another successful breeding season.
Last year, four young condors hatched in the wild, the most ever in one season. Eddie Feltes, field manager for The Peregrine Fund’s condor project, said there are as many active pairs in the wild flock this year as last year – but with an exciting new twist.
“Two individuals among the courting pairs were hatched in the wild and, with any luck, the Arizona-Utah population might well produce a second-generation wild bird for the first time,” Feltes said. “A wild-hatched condor producing wild-hatched young – we have our fingers crossed!”
Such breeding success is a testament to the resiliency of condors, which continue to face lead poisoning and other threats to their survival, he added.
The first egg in the wild Arizona-Utah flock was reported February 11. The adults will incubate it for about two months in their nest at a remote location in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Biologists will continue to monitor all the wild pairs from afar to confirm when eggs hatch and chicks take their first flight, or fledge, and to check on how the young birds progress as they are raised by their parents for about a year.
Breeding is also under way in the captive flock at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. The first egg, which appeared February 16, was small and yolkless but eight eggs have been laid since then. Marti Jenkins, who oversees the condor propagation program, expects the captive flock to produce up to 20 young birds this season.
The World Center for Birds of Prey is home to the world’s largest captive flock of condors. When an egg is two weeks old, biologists determine whether a chick is growing inside. The egg is then placed in an incubator until it is ready to hatch. It is returned to adult condors for hatching and the chick is raised by them for about a year. Juveniles join the wild flocks at various release sites, including The Peregrine Fund’s release site at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.
The recovery effort is a cooperative program by federal, state, and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Strip Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Kaibab and Dixie national forests.
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Susan Whaley, The Peregrine Fund, (208) 362-8274
Jeff Humphrey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (602) 242-0210, ext. 222
Lynda Lambert, Arizona Game and Fish Department, (623) 236-7203
Rachel Tueller, Bureau of Land Management, (435) 688-3303
Maureen Oltrogge, Grand Canyon National Park, (928) 638-7779
Mark Hadley, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, (801) 538-4737
Patrick Lair, Kaibab National Forest, (928) 643-8172