Bird Cams FAQ: California Condor Nest

July 28, 2015
A wild California condor nest at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. This egg went missing, likely predated, the evening of March 20, and was replaced with a captive-bred egg from Los Angeles Zoo. Still from a video by USFWS. A wild California condor nest at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. The original egg of this condor pair went missing on March 20, 2016; it was probably taken by a predator. The egg was replaced with a captive-bred egg from Los Angeles Zoo. Image from a video by USFWS.
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Answers to your questions about the California Condor nest. If you’re looking for the answer to a specific question, type control-F (command-F on a Mac) and start typing in your search terms to quickly find the answer.

About The Devils Gate Nest

How old are the adults and how long have they been together?
What do their names mean?
How can you tell which one is the male and which one is the female?
Where is this nest located?
Do the condors use the same nest each year?
Has this condor pair been featured on Cornell’s Bird Cams before?

About The Koford’s Ridge Nests (2015–2016)

How old are the adults and how long have they been together?
How can you tell which one is the male and which one is the female?
Where is this nest located?
Do the condors use the same nest each year?
Was this condor pair featured on Cornell’s Bird Cams before?
What was the fate of previous years’ nests?
Could this year’s chick suffer the same fate as those from past years?
What is the story behind the 2016 egg?
What if a predator enters the nest?

Adults

How big are condors?
Do they mate for life?
Which parent sits on the nest?
How big is their territory?
What do California Condors eat?
How far do they travel to find food?
How do they get water?
Do they sleep?
Do they have a sense of smell?
What predators are threats to California Condors?
What kinds of sounds do they make?
Why are they making hissing and grunting noises?
Why are there no feathers on that bird’s head?

Nests and Eggs

How many eggs do California Condors lay?
When do they lay their egg?
How long does it take for the egg to hatch?
How big are their eggs?
What is a “pipped” egg?

Chicks

Are you going to tag the chick?
Is the chick a male or female?
How big is the chick?
How often do they eat?
The chick seems hungry. Why haven’t the parents fed it?
How old will the chick be when it leaves the nest?
When does the chick get adult plumage?
Does the parent look after the young bird after it leaves the nest?
How does the nestling get water?
The parent has not returned. If the chick is starving will you rescue it?

Wing Tagging

What is a wing tag?
What do the different numbers stand for on the tags?
Are you recording the band number of the condors visiting the cam?
Why are some tags on the right wing and others on the left?
What information do you have about the birds on the camera?

Conservation

Are California Condors endangered?
What can I do to help California Condors?
How many California Condors are there?
How long do they live?
How many condor nests are there in southern California?
What is the California Condor Recovery Program?
Who is involved in the California Condor Recovery Program?
What is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s role in the recovery program?
What is Santa Barbara Zoo’s role in the recovery program?
What is the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology’s role in the recovery program?
When was the first California Condor released into the wild?
How were the condors saved from extinction?
How many condors were left in the wild before they were saved?
If they were raised in captivity and released are they all related?

Cameras

Does the camera bother the condors?
How long will the camera stay on?
What type of camera do you use?

About The Devils Gate Nest

How old are the adults and how long have they been together?

The parents of the chick in the Devils Gate nest are mom #513 and dad #206. Dad #206 hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1999 and mom #513 hatched at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise Idaho in 2009. This is their third nesting attempt together but they have yet to successfully fledge a chick.
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What do their names mean?

The parent’s names, or in fact numbers, represent their studbook number. Upon hatch, every condor is assigned a number which acts as a way to identify each individual. Since 1983, every known condor has been assigned a studbook number in chronological order. The lower the number, the older the condor. A studbook is an important tool in scientifically managing populations of threatened and endangered animals and is updated annually to reflect new hatches, deaths, transfers, and releases. This information may then be used to manage the captive populations to minimize inbreeding and grow populations to a sustainable level. The California Condor International Studbook is maintained and prepared by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
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How can you tell which one is the male and which one is the female?

It’s very difficult to tell males from females. In general the males are slightly larger. The only sure ways to tell the sexes apart are to see certain behaviors such as copulation or egg-laying, or by using a DNA test. Every California condor in the southern California flock has been tagged and sexed. In this nesting territory, male #206 wears a yellow tag which represents the 200 studbook series and female #513 wears a black tag which represents the 500 studbook series. When the nestling is four months old, he/she will also receive a handmade wing tag with a sewn-in radio transmitter. This tag will be black with white lettering.
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Where is this nest located?

This condor nest is located in the Los Padres National Forest near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
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Do the condors use the same nest each year?

Sometimes. They typically nest in the same general area as condor pairs tend to establish a nesting territory. Pairs will sometimes use the same nest year after year but other times they will move the precise nest location within their territory from year to year. This pair used this nest site during their first nesting attempt in 2015.
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Has This Condor Pair Been Featured on Cornell’s Bird Cams Before?

No, this is the first time that male #206 and female #513 have been featured on the California Condor cam.
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About The Koford’s Ridge Nests (2015–2016)

How old are the adults and how long have they been together?

Previously, the California Condors nesting at Koford’s Ridge were female #111 and male #509. Condor #111 is 23-years old and hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 1994. Previously paired with #100 and #125, she has been breeding and contributing to the wild Southern California flock since 2001. Male #509 is an 8-year old wild-fledged condor and the offspring of dam #161 and sire #107. Condors #111 and #509 were observed courting in fall 2014 after the loss of #111’s former mate, #125. In late February 2015, they nested for the first time together in the Koford’s Ridge territory adjacent to Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
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How can you tell which one is the male and which one is the female?

In this nesting territory, male #509 wears a black tag which represents the 500 studbook series and female #111 wears a red tag which represents the 100 studbook series.
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Where is this nest located?

This condor nest, known as the Koford’s Ridge nest, is located in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, Los Padres National Forest, near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
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Do the condors use the same nest each year?

Sometimes. Since condors establish a nesting territory, their nests are typically in the same general area. Pairs sometimes use the same nest cavity year after year and other times they move the nest location within their territory. In 2016, #111 and #509 chose a different nest cavity than the one they used in 2015. There were two entrances to the 2016 cavity which provided a lot of natural light and made for a great view via the live streaming camera. While female #111 has nested in her Koford’s Ridge territory since 2004, this was a new nest cavity that had not been previously used.
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Was This Condor Pair Featured on Cornell’s Bird Cams Before?

Yes, in 2015 #111, #509, and their offspring #793 were featured on the first live streaming camera from a California condor nest! On April 4, 2015, during a routine nest entry and egg fertility check, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists installed a nest camera which allowed the field team to monitor the nest remotely. In August, when nestling #793 was 4-months old, the camera went live to the public on Bird Cams.
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What Was the Fate of Previous Years’ Nests?

2016: In late September, just a few days after condor chick #815 fledged, biologists that were monitoring the young bird via radio telemetry recieved a mortality signal from the transmitter in its wing tag (indicating that the chick had not moved for 12+ hours). After tracking the location, the chicks’s body was found along the steep slopes high above the nesting cavity, and the remains were collected for a necropsy.

Scavenging that occurred prior to the recovery of the chick’s body obscured any signs of trauma or disease that may have given signs to the cause of the bird’s death. According to the results of the necropsy examination, the possibilities that remained for the cause of death included a fall from height, disease, or predation, with predation being the most likely considering the bird’s recent history of normal flight activity. An important clarification is that the lead levels in the chick’s liver and bone – which indicate lifetime exposure – were below levels that would have required treatment, which indicates that lead poisoning was not the cause of death. Some microtrash was present in the bird’s stomach but was unlikely to have contributed to the bird’s death.

2015: On September 17th, the inquisitive nestling, #793, was exploring the far reaches of the narrow chute that is the entrance to the nest cavity when it slid down and out of view of the camera. The chick remained on a ledge below the nest cavity for a few days where it was visited by its parents yet unable to climb up the steep slope back to the nest. Biologists were monitoring #793 via radio telemetry and unfortunately detected a mortality signal (indicating that the chick had not moved for 12+ hours) on September 24th. The chick’s body was found and recovered below the nest cliff that same day.

A necropsy was performed to determine cause of death and the results were finalized in February, 2016. Lead poisoning was found to be the cause of death for condor chick #793 due to elevated lead levels found in the bone and remaining tissues. Despite the incredible efforts of the last 30+ years, there are still challenges to the ongoing conservation of the condors. Unfortunately, lead poisoning from the ingestion of spent ammunition while feeding on non-proffered carcasses is a major ongoing concern for all California condors, including those in Southern California.

However, hunting and the depredation of wildlife and livestock provide an important food source for condors and other scavengers. The use of non-lead ammunition maintains the importance of hunting and shooting as a traditional and important conservation tool, while eliminating unnecessary impacts to scavengers. Learn about switching to non-lead ammunition.

Could This Year’s Chick Suffer the Same Fate As Those From Past Years?

There are always risks when raising a chick in the wild, and there is no guarantee that any one chick will survive to reach adulthood. The juvenile stage is an especially vulnerable period for California Condors, as was evidenced by condor chick #815’s death in 2016. In addition to the constant threat of lead poisoning, young condors are inexperienced and clumsy fliers that are at risk of falling from high rocky ledges. As soon as they leave the nest, they also become targets for predators such as bobcats, mountain lions, and Golden Eagles.

Lead poisoning remains the leading cause of mortality for wild California condors. In California, the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act was passed in 2008 restricting use of lead ammunition for the take of big game in the range of the condor. We applaud the hunting community for taking this step to protect condors, eagles, and other scavengers. Unfortunately, exposures still occur and those exposures are connected to the use of lead ammunition which contaminates some of the carrion that condors eat. There are a number of factors that contribute to the continued exposure of condors to lead via ammunition, which include difficulty in enforcement and wildlife poaching.

As part of a Nest Guarding Program developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Barbara Zoo in 2007, most wild Southern California condor nests are entered during critical stages of development to assess viability of the egg and health of the chick. One way to measure health is by taking a blood sample which is tested to determine the chick’s blood lead level. On August 20th, 2015 when California Condor chick #793 was 4-months old, biologists entered the Koford’s Ridge nest to obtain a blood sample, weigh the chick, measure the length of his growing tail feathers, sift the nest substrate for pieces of microtrash, and attach a wing identification tag with sewn in radio transmitter for monitoring purposes post fledging. At that time, test results revealed that condor #793’s blood lead level was not elevated.

California condors have proven to be able to tolerate high levels of lead toxicity that would likely be lethal to other wildlife. In addition, they are often able to mask signs and symptoms of lead poisoning which makes it extremely difficult to detect visually or behaviorally. As with all wild condor nests in Southern California, biologists will monitor this year’s Condor Cam nestling via the live streaming camera as well as by conducting routine nest entries which will include a health exam and blood lead test. Additionally, targeted nest entries may occur to respond to problems identified through monitoring and examinations.
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What is the Story Behind the 2016 Egg?

On March 2nd, a team of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists entered the Koford’s Ridge nest and candled the egg to check its fertility. The egg proved to be fertile and was estimated to hatch April 4th – 6th based on its development at time of candling. Unfortunately, during the night between March 20th and March 21st, the egg went missing from the cavity. The camera was programmed to only record during dawn, dusk, and daylight hours in order keep reserve battery power so the incident was not caught on film. When the egg was noticed missing on Monday, March 21st, a team of USFWS biologists quickly mobilized and rappelled into the nest in order to replace the missing egg with a dummy egg. Wildlife Biologist, Eddie Owens, noticed a moist area in the nest substrate and recovered a few eggshell fragments. Our best guess is that the egg was predated in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, female #111 entered the nest cavity as soon as Eddie left and starting incubating the dummy egg. Condor #509 also took turns incubating the dummy egg which gave the recovery team an opportunity to replace the dummy egg with a hatching captive-laid egg from the Los Angeles Zoo as soon as one became available. On Sunday, April 3rd, a team of USFWS biologists placed a pipped captive laid egg from the Los Angeles Zoo in the Koford’s Ridge nest cavity. This is a tried-and-true technique that allows wild condor pairs the opportunity to raise a chick and if successful, to fledge another bird into the Southern California population. We were thrilled to bring the public this rare opportunity to see a condor chick hatch online for the first time!
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What if a Predator Enters the Nest?

Condors typically nest in cliffside and hollowed out tree cavities that are difficult, if not impossible, to access by humans without climbing equipment and ropes. However, sometimes condors select nest cavities that are accessible to terrestrial predators that are skilled climbers such as bobcats, black bears, and mountain lions. After hatching, we will continue to closely monitor the condor nestling via the live streaming camera and newly placed motion activated Bushnell game camera that is capable of taking nighttime images. We hope that whatever caused the original egg to disappear will not affect the chick, however, as in all other wild condor nests there is a chance that a predator might access the nest or that it might fail due to other natural causes.
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Adults

How big are condors?

California Condors are very large soaring birds. They are about 4 feet long with a wingspan of 9.5 feet. They typically weigh 17-23 pounds and males tend to be heavier than females.
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Do they mate for life?

California Condors form very long-lasting pair bonds. A pair that has nested successfully at least once is very likely to remain together unless one member of the pair dies. Raising a chick takes approximately 8 months from laying to fledging, and is so demanding that there’s a real benefit to a pair to having reliable timing and foraging success.
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Which parent sits on the nest?

Both parents participate equally in incubating the egg and feeding the chick. After the female lays the egg, the parents take turns incubating while the other forages for food. An incubation shift may last 1-7 days depending on the individual bird.
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How big is their territory?

Pairs maintain a nesting territory that range in size from a square mile to few square miles in size depending on the topography. Condors have a much larger overlapping home ranges that are thousands of square miles annually. A condor can travel up to 200 miles in a in a day while foraging for carrion.
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What do California Condors eat?

Condors are scavengers that eat carrion of land and marine mammals such as deer, cattle, pigs, rabbits, sea lions, and whales. Young are fed by regurgitation.
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How far do they travel to find food?

California Condors can fly over 150 miles in a day in search of food. Condors locate carcasses with their keen eyesight (not by smell) by observing other scavengers assembled at a carcass. Once they land, they take over the carcasses from smaller species (such as ravens and turkey vultures), but they are tolerant of other condors and usually feed in groups.
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How do they get water?

Condors visit pools, ponds, and waterfalls to get water and bathe. They also get water from the carrion they consume.
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Do they sleep?

Yes. Condors are diurnal like us. They sleep at night, usually high up in a tree or cliff roost. Condors roost communally, often gathering in groups at dusk. To sleep, they lie prone on their perch with their head tucked behind a wing.
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Do they have a sense of smell?

Condors do not have a good sense of smell.
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What predators are threats to California Condors?

California Condors have few natural predators due to their size. However, large terrestrial predators such as mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, and bobcats have been known to hunt and kill adult and juvenile condors. The Golden Eagle is the only bird that poses a threat to adult, juvenile, and young fledglings. As mentioned above, condor eggs and nestlings may be at risk to predation by terrestrial predators if the nests are accessible. They may also be at risk to predation by Common Ravens.
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What kinds of sounds do they make?

Condors are usually silent, but can issue a variety of hisses and snorts particularly when defending nest sites. Newborn chicks hiss, wheeze, and grunt at adults.
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Why are they making hissing and grunting noises?

Condors are usually silent (they lack vocal cords), but can issue a variety of hisses and snorts particularly when defending nest sites. Newborn chicks hiss, wheeze, and grunt at adults.
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Why are there no feathers on that bird’s head?

Adult California Condors have a distinctive pink head and neck that is bare of feathers. That bare head is great for keeping rotting food from sticking to it as the birds eat. The skin on an adult condor’s head can also express motivational states; for example, it can turn a deep red-pink during courtship or when the birds are excited or alarmed. The adults also have a throat sac that they can puff out during courtship displays.
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Nests and Eggs

How many eggs do California Condors lay?

Female condors lay only one egg per nesting attempt and they don’t always nest every year. If a pair’s egg fails early enough in the breeding season, females will often recycle by laying a replacement egg. Often, pairs will skip a year in between breeding attempts to provide extended care for their last offspring.
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When are the eggs laid?

Condors lay their egg between January and late May.
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How long does it take for the egg to hatch?

Eggs hatch in about 54-58 days.
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How big are their eggs?

California Condor eggs are about 4.5 inches long and almost 3 inches wide, weighing about 11 ounces. Condor eggs are pale blue-green when they are first laid but over time they fade to white or creamy white.
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What is a “pipped” egg?

A “pipped” egg refers to the process of initially breaking through the shell with a hard projection on the chick’s bill called the egg tooth. The resulting hole is the “pip” which the chick then enlarges to finish hatching. On average, condor chicks take about 3 days to emerge fully from the egg once pipping has begun.
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Chicks

Are you going to tag the chick?

Yes. When the nestling is approximately 4 months old, trained biologists will tag it so that it can tracked after fledging. Every wild California Condor chick is given a single wing tag and radio transmitter.
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Is the chick a male or female?

We can’t tell the chick’s gender just by looking. The only way to know a condor’s gender for sure is by DNA testing or, with adults, by observing behavior (for example, witnessing the female lay an egg, or seeing the male perching on the back of the female during mating). We typically determine the chick’s gender during the first year via a blood test.
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How big is the chick?

Upon hatching, nestlings weigh about 9 ounces. When they fledge, 5–7 months later, they weigh approximately 17-20 pounds.
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How often do they eat?

Condor chicks are fed almost daily for the first two weeks of life. After that the chick will be left alone in the nest so that both parents can forage to meet the increasing food demands of their chick. Feedings become less frequent in the latter stages of the cycle, with chicks receiving an average of only about one feeding every 10 hours. Adults may stay away for 2-3 days as the chick gets older
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The chick seems hungry. Why haven’t the parents fed it?

California Condors may travel more than 150 miles to gather food for their chicks. One of them stays with the chick constantly for the first 3–4 weeks. As the chick grows, it needs more food. The parents stay away for longer and longer, up to 3 days. So keep watching—they will almost certainly come back.
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How old will the chick be when it leaves the nest?

Chicks take about 6 months to make their first flight. Some fledge a bit earlier or later
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When does the chick get adult plumage?

At hatching, condor chicks have white down and naked orange-yellow heads and necks. The white body down is replaced by a gray down within several weeks, and a short gray down begins to develop on the head and neck by about 50 days of age. Juvenile feathers begin to appear at about 2 months of age, and the skin color of the head changes from a fleshy to slate gray at about 18 weeks, although some birds have fairly grayish head skin from hatching. In the fully developed juvenile plumage, the bill is black, the gray-black head and neck are largely covered with gray down, the iris is dark brown, and a feather ruff at the base of the neck is well developed. The body feathers are uniformly blackish, except that many have paler brownish margins at their ends. The wing-lining triangles on the underside of the extended wings are basically white but are irregularly mottled with dark brown and usually a dark spot near the body.

During the bird’s fifth year, a condor gradually achieves full adult coloration, with head color gradually becoming full orange except for a saddle of very short black feathers in front of the eyes., The underwing feathers will become less mottled to pure white, and the bars on the tops of the wings change from light gray to pure white. Over a longer time span the bill color also changes from black to ivory.
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Does the parent look after the young bird after it leaves the nest?

Yes. Fledglings remain dependent on their parents for another 6-12 months. The total length of a nesting cycle is more than a year.
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How does the nestling get water?

Water is part of the food delivered by the parents.
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The parent has not returned. If the chick is starving will you rescue it?

California Condor nestlings have evolved to be able to survive days in isolation while parents are foraging. While the young condors on cam have experienced parents that keep their young well-fed, there is always the risk of a parent dying. Via nest camera, we have observed a single parent continue to care for and fledge a chick after losing its mate. If a condor chick was to lose both of its parents, biologists will intervene to save the chick. It will be removed from the nest and transferred to the Los Angeles Zoo for care and then released as a captive reared bird at about 1.5 years of age.
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Wing Tagging

What is a wing tag?

All condors are tagged with at least one distinct color/number wing-mounted tags for identification in the field. Some condors are also fitted with wing-mounted GPS transmitters, like female #513, which biologists use to track their movements in the wild.

Condors cannot be given traditional bird bands because they show a thermoregulatory behavior called urohydrosis, in which they drench their legs with their own excreta during hot weather. This cools first their legs then their entire bodies via cooled blood from the legs circulating throughout the body. Urohydrosis is very unusual in the bird world, being found elsewhere only in the storks and certain boobies, and is one of the principal behaviors linking the vulturids to the storks.
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What do the different numbers stand for on the tags?

The numbers on the wing tags represent the last one or two digits of the bird’s studbook number. Male condor #206 wears a yellow tag with the number “6” and female #513 wears a black tag with the number “13”. Be sure to let us know if you see any unusual tagged condors visiting the nest!
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Are you recording the band number of the condors visiting the cam?

Yes. It is great to record the tags on the condors’ wings whenever possible. You can let us know the tags you see by tweeting us at @CornellCondors. Don’t forget to include the California time and date. You can also email us at birdcams@cornell.edu.
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Why are some tags on the right wing and others on the left?

Condors can be tagged on either wing. In the early days of the California Condor Recovery Program, every condor was tagged on both wings. Now condors in southern California just wear one wing tag and it can be on either side.
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What information do you have about the birds on the camera?

The parents of the chick in the Devils Gate nest are mom #513 and dad #206. Dad #206 hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1999 and released into the wild at Hopper Mountain NWR in 2000 and mom #513 hatched at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise Idaho in 2009 and released at Bitter Creek NWR in 2010. This is the pair’s third attempt at nesting together. The two previous attempts were unsuccessful. In 2015 a rock fell from above the nest and struck the chick severely injuring it. Biologists attempted to rescue the chick but it’s injuries were to severe and the chick was euthanized. In 2016 the pair attempted to nest again but this chick suffered from a microtrash impaction and multiple bone fractures and was euthanized.

Before pairing with #513, condor #206 was previously paired with females #255 then #370. He and female #255 successfully fledged condor #449 but then had a series of failed nesting attempts. They parted amicably in 2010/2011 and went on to pair with new mates. In 2012, #206 paired up with #370 and that year they successfully fledged condor #658. Unfortunately, #370 went missing in the wild in late 2014 and is presumed deceased.

Female condor #513 never bred before 2015 and #206 is her first mate. Their chick hatched on April 11th and has been assigned the studbook number #871.
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Conservation

Are California Condors endangered?

Yes, California condors are federally listed as endangered and still one of the rarest birds in the world. In 1982, the world population of condors reached a low of 22 individuals in the wild. A captive breeding program was started at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park followed by the Los Angeles Zoo. By 1987, all remaining wild condors were removed from the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the help of many zoos and conservation partners, began reintroducing condors into the wild in 1992. Today there are more than 400 condors in total, with over 160 in captivity at breeding facilities or on exhibit at the Santa Barbara Zoo, Oregon Zoo, World Center for Birds of Prey, Phoenix Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo. Every year, cohorts of captive-bred condors are released into all of the wild populations. As of December 2015, there were more than 260 individuals in the wild in California, Arizona, and Baja California. The number has been rising steadily each year, as captive-bred birds are released and wild pairs fledge young from their own nests.
Potential causes of California condor population decline were numerous and possibly varied throughout time. It is not known with certainty which mortality factors have been dominant in the overall decline of California condors but it was likely that a combination of factors had a compound impact on this species, which has a slow rate of maturity and naturally low reproductive rate. In the past, condors were killed for collection or simply shot and their eggs were taken from nests by egg collectors. The species also likely experienced population declines due to secondary poisoning from predator elimination campaigns during the early settlement of the west coast of North America. The effects of eggshell thinning are also thought to be a serious factor in the decline of California condors during the 1950s–1960s. However, these activities are no longer counted among the major threats.
Since reintroduction efforts began in 1992, causes of California condor mortality have been closely documented and the majority determined to be anthropogenic. Lead poisoning is the leading cause of death in free flying condors and microtrash ingestion is the leading cause of death in chicks. Other documented causes of death since the reintroduction of condors to the wild have included predation, power line collisions, wildfires, and shooting.
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What can I do to help California Condors?

Learning about condors and the natural world in and of itself is a contribution. Knowledge of how biological systems work and the life cycles of animals and plants helps guide our society’s ability to make good land management decisions.

Help from Home
Be a citizen scientist and help condor recovery right from home. Go to www.condorwatch.org and review photos of condors and record your observations. You will help collect information from the photos that condor biologists on several condor recovery teams will have access to.

Understand the Role of Hunting
Viable, thriving ecosystems include checks and balances. Hunting has been part of natural balances for thousands of years, depending upon grazing and browsing animals just like the coyote and mountain lion. Scavengers like condors can benefit from eating the scraps that hunters or predators leave on the land.
Hunters that use nonlead ammunition carry on the proud tradition of wildlife conservation by preventing condors and other animals from being exposed to lead, a toxic substance. Visit Hunting with Non Lead for more information.

Report Poaching
Poachers undermine sound wildlife management, infringe on people’s privacy, and disrespect the good efforts of responsible hunters. If you have information about illegal shootings or trespass, call the California Department of Fish and Game at (888) DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258), or your local game agency.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Recycle what you can and think of creative ways to avoid using disposable products in the first place. Not only will you help reduce energy and resource consumption, but you’ll also reduce the chance that trash will end up in the wrong place. Because many species of wildlife, including condors, can accidentally ingest plastic or other trash, less trash on the land equals healthier wildlife. Extend the three R’s ethic to activities outside of your home and look at what you can do in your community to reduce waste and litter. Volunteering to help clean up litter from natural landscapes is a particularly effective way to help wildlife.

Drive Safely
Thousands of animals die every year when they are struck by automobiles. Often, these roadkills are scavenged by other animals and sometimes the scavenger also ends up dead on the road. Condors rarely approach roads, but vultures and other scavengers often do. Slowing down and keeping an eye out for wildlife crossings are good for both wildlife and drivers.

Keep Wildlife Wild
Spread the practice of never feeding wild animals intentionally or unintentionally. Properly store food and make it inaccessible to wildlife. Condors and other wildlife need to stay wild and not become habituated to handouts. It’s bad for their health and changes their behavior negatively. If you see someone feeding wildlife please kindly tell them why it actually hurts the animal.

Volunteer
There are many groups working to help California Condors survive. Consider getting involved with the organization closest to where you live:

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How many California Condors are there?

There are approximately 430 California Condors in the world. About 230 are in the wild, with the other 200 in captive breeding populations.
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How long do they live?

California Condors can live very long lives. We believe that condors can live upwards of 60 years or more. As of 2015, the oldest known California Condor is 49 years old and still breeding successfully in captivity at the Los Angeles Zoo. The oldest wild condor is 35 years old and still breeding successfully in southern California.
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How many condor nests are there in southern California?

The number of condor nests in southern California varies each year. In 2015 we saw a record-breaking year with 10 wild nests! All of these nests are located in Ventura County in the rugged backcountry surrounding Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.
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What is the California Condor Recovery Program?

The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is a multi-entity effort, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to recover the endangered California Condor. Partners in condor recovery include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Utah Department of Fish and Wildlife, the federal government of Mexico, Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Oakland Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Ventana Wildlife Society, Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Yurok Tribe, and a host of other governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

The Recovery Program is now in the final phase of recovery, focusing on the creation of self-sustaining populations. The Program is placing increased emphasis on the captive-breeding and reintroduction of California Condors to the wild and the management of that wild population. These efforts combine trying to reduce the threat of lead with actively managing nesting in the wild to increase the number of wild-fledged chicks.

The goal of the California Condor Recovery Plan is to establish two geographically distinct self-sustaining populations, each with 150 birds in the wild and at least 15 breeding pairs, with a third population of condors retained in captivity. As the Recovery Program works toward this goal, the number of release sites has grown. There are three active release sites in California, one in Arizona, and one in Baja California, Mexico.
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Who is involved in the California Condor Recovery Program?

Three organizations take part in the Recovery Program: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Santa Barbara Zoo, and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology.
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What is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s role in the recovery program?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Complex) serves as the lead office for the Recovery Program and is one of many partners that support this multistate and international recovery effort. The Complex has participated in the California Condor reintroduction effort since 1992.

The Service operates a number of different release sites both on refuges and on U.S. Forest Service lands and since has released condors from the captive breeding facilities annually. The Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex manages a reintroduced population of California Condors in Southern California. Bitter Creek and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuges are the primary management locations for the release, monitoring, and recapture of condors in this region. Over time, these releases led to the establishment of the Southern California Condor population, the group of condors directly managed by the Complex’s condor field team (field team).

Over the last 20 years, the field team has been responsible for the continued monitoring and management of the reintroduced population, working both on and off refuge. Today, two of the wildlife refuges from the Complex, Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge are the primary management locations for the condor population in Southern California, which currently inhabits portions of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angles, Kern, Tulare and Inyo Counties.
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What is Santa Barbara Zoo’s role in the recovery program?

The Santa Barbara Zoo has been a partner in condor recovery efforts since 1999. In 2007, the Service partnered with the Santa Barbara Zoo to create an intensive nest management strategy, the California Condor Nest Guarding Program. The program is modeled after a nest guarding program for the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot (Lindsey 1992) and combines monitoring nests with direct intervention to detect threats to thwart nest failure. The goals of the California Condor Nest Guarding Program are to identify the leading causes of nest failure and to increase the number of wild fledged condor chicks in Southern California.
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What is the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology’s role in the recovery program?

The WFVZ has a long history of contributing to condor conservation through educational programs, research projects, and publications. Lloyd Kiff, Director of WFVZ from 1968-1994, was the first chair of the Condor Recovery Team, and once the WFVZ relocated from Los Angeles to Camarillo in 1992, meetings of the team were often held onsite. Ed Harrison, founder of the WFVZ, supported Kiff’s and the WFVZ’s participation in the recovery effort, and it continues today under the Directorship of Dr. Linnea Hall. WFVZ continues to receive condor eggs and bird specimens for archiving at the museum; Dr. Allan Mee and Dr. Hall coedited the proceedings from a condor symposium at the American Ornithologists’ Union meeting in 2005; and the WFVZ is now collaborating with the program in hosting the antenna for the livestreaming cameras. In addition, Ed Harrison was one of the early naturalists to take extensive film footage of condors in the wild in the Sespe Wilderness, and to produce a documentary film with J. R. Pemberton in the 1950s, about the wild behavior of condors.
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When was the first California Condor released into the wild?

From 1987 to 1992, no California Condors flew free in the California skies. In 1992 captive-bred condors were released into the wild at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge north of Ventura, with additional captive-reared birds added to the flock each year thereafter.
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How were the condors saved from extinction?

In 1979, the “California Condor Recovery Program”, which still exists today, was launched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and in 1980, they and the National Audubon Society jointly founded the “Condor Research Center” in Ventura. This center focused on a number of areas: 1) determining an accurate population estimate; 2) locating and monitoring active nest sites to determine if birds were reproducing; 3) determining feeding areas and sources of food; 4) determining causes of mortality. The program also sought to initiate radio telemetry to accurately monitor condor movements and causes of mortality, and to identify key habitat areas for protection. Finally, it sought to establish a captive breeding program to build the species numbers.

Unfortunately, various efforts made by the California Condor Recovery Program in the 1980’s to help save the wild condor population were not enough to reverse the decline. In fact, the decline accelerated during this time and by 1985 it was obvious that there was no possibility of salvaging the wild population by any means. By 1986, all efforts were focused on removing the last remaining condors from the wild for the captive breeding program. Surrogate studies with Andean condors and other vulturids had given substantial encouragement that the California condor would respond well to captive husbandry and would be reintroduceable to the wild from captivity.

In 1987, the last wild California condor was taken into captivity to join the 26 remaining condors in an attempt to bolster the population through a captive breeding program. The entire world population of the species was 27 birds, and all were housed in two captive breeding facilities in southern California.
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How many condors were left in the wild before they were saved?

The wild population of California Condors reached a low of 22 individuals in the early 1980s.
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If they were raised in captivity and released are they all related?

It’s true that many California Condors are related but there are dedicated geneticists from Smithsonian Institute and San Diego Zoo Global that recommend captive breeding pairs and release locations in order to maximize genetic diversity. When the question of relatedness among individuals in the decreasing condor population arose, San Diego Zoo Global used DNA fingerprinting methodology to analyze the level of genetic diversity remaining in the population. The results of their study, showing three surviving clans, proved invaluable when decisions were made on pairing birds after all remaining individuals were brought into captivity. For many years, San Diego Zoo Global Genetics group and the Smithsonian Institute have assisted the Recovery Program in its management of wild and captive California Condors.
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Cameras

Does the camera bother the condors?

Adult condors usually ignore the camera. Chicks can be quite mobile and curious—it’s likely that the chick will investigate the camera at some point.
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How long will the camera stay on?

The cam will stream during the entire nesting season. We expect this chick to fledge between mid-October and mid-November. However, even after fledging, it is common for condor chicks and adults to occasionally return to the nest. So don’t be surprised if you see the chick back on the camera after fledging.
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What type of camera do you use?

The camera is an Axis P3367-VE. Check out the Axis website for more information.
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Comments

  • CondorWatch,org

    Thank you, Cornell, for this astounding education and tribute to these remarkable birds. We invite everyone to stop by http://www.condorwatch.org and help analyse photos from the feeding sites. The project is working to help identify social hierarchies to hopefully prevent lead poisoning deaths among social groups. You would not believe the personalities these condors have! The Condor Watch Project (also on Facebook)