Hatching season wrapped up last week at the Oregon Zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, where eight new California condor chicks are growing fast — a significant step forward in the recovery of this critically endangered species.
“With so few California condors left in the world, each bird is vitally important,” said Kelli Walker, the zoo’s senior condor keeper. “These chicks are already stretching their wings and preparing to be free-flying wild condors.”
The chicks will stay with their parents for at least eight months before moving to pre-release pens for about a year. Eventually, they will travel to a wild release site to join free-flying condors in California and Arizona.
The last chick to hatch this season was also the first to participate in a groundbreaking condor research project: While care staff kept its egg warm in an incubator, its parents sat on a high-tech ‘dummy’ egg. Equipment hidden inside the replica egg measured turn rate, temperature and how often the egg is moved. It also recorded audio of condor parents’ breathing and heartbeats while they take turns sitting on the nest.
“We’ve never been able to get this type of information from inside of a California condor nest before,” Walker said. “Knowing the precise conditions for rearing healthy chicks could be very useful to condor recovery efforts.”
The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act and is classified as critically endangered. In 1982, only 22 individuals remained in the wild and by 1987, the last condors were brought into human care in an attempt to save the species from extinction. Thanks to recovery programs like the Oregon Zoo’s, the world’s California condor population now totals around 500 birds, most of which are flying free.
The Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts take place at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County on Metro-owned open land. The remoteness of the facility minimizes the exposure of young condors to people, increasing the chances for captive-hatched birds to survive and breed in the wild.
Upgrades and new equipment at the center have been made possible through continued support from the Avangrid Foundation and donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation, which supports the zoo’s efforts in advancing animal well-being, species recovery work and conservation education. To contribute, go to oregonzoo.org/give.
More than 108 chicks have hatched at the Jonsson Center since 2003, and more than 73 Oregon Zoo-reared birds have gone out to field pens for release. Several eggs laid by Oregon Zoo condors have been placed in wild nests to hatch.
California condor breeding programs are also operated at San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho. For more information, visit oregonzoo.org/condors.
Source: Oregon Zoo