Monday, April 04, 2005

A Sad Day in Condor History

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On May 3, 2003, the California Condor Reintroduction Program made a huge milestone when Condor 305 was hatched in the wild to Condor 123 and 127. Although other birds had laid eggs and some have produced offspring, those had never made it past the nest stage. Condor 305 was the first of three to have fledged (flew away from) the nest.
I could only imagine what it would have been like to be the biologist and possibly visitors who watched the first time Condor 305 stepped from the nest cave and dropped 60 feet before realizing those things on its side helped it fly. The bird made a short flight that first time and landed about 60 feet below the nest. The parents returned only to find their child was not at the nest and did a quick search. They landed near the bird, fed it, and continued to help the bird make progress.
Condor 305 was doing well and was making great strides for almost two years. However, sadness has fallen upon the condor community as on March 26, 2005 Condor 305 was found dead. The bird was fully intact so the bird will checked out to see what the cause of death was. The bird only weighed about 10 pounds which is highly underweight as they weigh about 25-30 pounds.
But we are not letting Condor 305 set us back. We are still moving forward. We have two more in Arizona that have fledged and another in California. Here is the information about the Arizona ones...
350 (the 2004 Battleship chick; parents 119 & 122) is flying well and getting around well. Mostly along the rim of the Inner Canyon, but he/she went to the top of the Battleship for a couple days recently. He/she is spending some time at Plateau Point (which is not surprising given his parent's habits), and has let a few people approach it a little too closely. But mostly 350 is doing well, and has also met and interacted with other birds besides his/her parents.
342 (the 2004 Vermilion Cliffs chick; parents 149 & 114) is only being fed by his father 114. Since the chick's release after his surgery, 149 has had almost nothing to do with him. So much of a condor's behavior is hormonally controlled, and it is possible that after 2 weeks of while it was in Phx for treatment, it may have appeared that the nest had failed. So, hormonally, she may have just switched gears. But given the proximity of the chick to the release site, there is plenty of food available to the father to feed the chick by himself. Also, it is thought that the chick could become independent relatively easily with the release site so close, and since the chick has already been to the release site.
And more pairs are starting to breed. In the 80s the last of the wild condors were caught and brought into captivity. There were about 80 left if I remember right. Today, in a combination of wild and captive, the program has over 200. The program is working, but like any progress in life, it takes time.

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