Live Video: Huttons Bowl California condor nest

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners have launched a livestreaming camera in a nest of endangered California condors near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.

Watch the Huttons Bowl California condor webcam. This recently installed nest camera located near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWS


Welcome! You are watching the Huttons Bowl California condor webcam – or CondorCam, featuring live video of endangered California condors nesting in the wild.

The nest camera is located near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California. The nest camera will stream continuously throughout the year.

“The condor program is a clear example of the strength of public-private partnerships in achieving conservation objectives,” said Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s director of conservation and Science. “We’re so excited to be streaming again in 2021 with a new condor pair. What will the future hold for 594 and 374? Only time will tell, and through the support of our Condor Cam partners, we will learn together with viewers all around the world!”

Nest cameras allow the viewer to see through the eyes of the team trying to save endangered condors in the wild. Shown here, a newly hatched condor chick in its nest on Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Joseph Brandt/USFWS

Nest cameras are tools that allow the viewer to see through the eyes of the team trying to save endangered condors in the wild, but also allow you, the viewer, to peek inside the daily life of these iconic birds.

"Watching a condor chick and its parents in the wild is a unique and remarkable experience, and one that can be shared with millions of viewers through livestreaming technology," said Arianna Punzalan, supervisory wildlife biologist with the Service’s California Condor Recovery Program.

The nest cams also help raise awareness about California condors and hopefully generate interest in the conservation of these birds and other endangered wildlife.

"The condor cams do an incredible job of lowering the barriers to experiencing the beauty and challenges of being a condor. Each of the adults has an incredible backstory that can stretch decades, and for viewers to witness the next generation of condors while watching from anywhere in the world is a testament to the continuing power of this successful conservation story,” said Charles Eldermire,Cornell Lab Bird Cams project leader. “That's not just good for viewers—it's good for the condors, too."

The spectacular but endangered California condor is the largest land bird in North America. These superb gliders travel widely to feed on carcasses of deer, pigs, cattle, sea lions, whales, and other animals. Pairs nest in caves high on cliff faces or in giant trees like redwoods or sequoias. The wild population fell to just 22 birds in the 1980s, but there are now more than 300 free-flying birds in California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, with another 175 in captivity. Lead poisoning remains the primary threat to California condors in the wild, you can learn more about non-lead ammunition here: http://www.huntingwithnonlead.org/ or www.nonleadpartnership.org.

Read more about California condors.

About the nest

The parents of the chick, #1075, in the Huttons Bowl nest are female condor #594 and male condor #374. Male condor #374 hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo and was released into the wild a year later in 2007. Female condor #594 hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and was released into wild in 2012. This is their first nesting attempt together, although #374 has used this nest cavity before in 2018 with former mate #289.

What do their numbers mean?

The parents’ names, or in fact numbers, represent their studbook number. Upon hatching, every condor is assigned a number which identifies 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 California condor sits atop the capture facility after a medical work. Condors are one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of nearly 60 years. Credit: Jon Myatt/USFWS

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 is 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 Santa Barbara Zoo.

How can you tell male from female?

It’s very difficult to tell males from females, although in general the males are slightly larger. The only sure ways to tell the sexes apart are to observe 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, #374 wears a blue tag which represents the 300 studbook series and #594 wears a black tag which represents the 500 studbook series. When the nestling is four months old, he/she will also receive a special handmade wing tag with #1075 on it and a radio transmitter attached.

Nest Placement

Condors nest mainly in natural cavities or caves in cliffs, though they sometimes also use trees, such as coast redwood and, historically, the giant sequoia. As the wild population grows, there is the possibility they may return to nest in the sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada.

This condor nest is located in remote canyon near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge and was used by #374 and his former mate #289 – who died in 2020 from lead poisoning – in 2018.

Do the condors use the same nest each year?

Sometimes. Condor pairs will establish a nesting territory and typically nest in the same general area with multiple potential nest cavities; sometimes they return to the same nest year-after-year, sometimes they choose a different nest within their territory. Females make the final decision on which nest location to use.

From a ledge outside the nest near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, California condor 374 watches intently as biologists check an egg's fertility. Credit: Molly Astell/USFWS

What is a wing tag?

All condors are tagged with at least one distinct color/number wing-mounted tag for identification in the field. Condor #374 also wears a GPS transmitter, which biologists use to track the bird’s movements throughout the year. The transmitters can be seen on the wing just above the tag number.

Condors cannot be given traditional bird bands because they show a thermoregulatory behavior called urohydrosis in which they drench their legs with their own excrement during hot weather to help cool down. This cools first their legs and then their entire body via cooled blood from the legs circulating throughout their system. Urohydrosis is very unusual in the bird world, being found elsewhere only in storks and certain boobies, and is one of the principal behaviors linking new world vultures to storks.

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 #374 wears a blue tag with the number “74” and female #594 wears a black tag with the number “94.” Be sure to let us know if you see any other tagged condors visiting the nest.

What information do you have about the birds on the camera?

This year’s live-streaming nest camera is located in an area known as Huttons Bowl and is a remote cavity nest located near the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. The parents of this nest are condors #374 and #594, and they are a newly established pair.

The male, #374, was hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo in 2005 and has nested in the Huttons Bowl area since 2016. He previously nested in an adjacent nest territory since 2012. He is an experienced parent and has raised four offspring, three of which are still alive today. His last two chicks were raised in the same cavity that you now see in our live-streaming nest camera. Unfortunately, #374 lost his most recent mate this past year.

The female, #594, hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2010 and has raised two offspring in a nest territory adjacent to Huttons Bowl, one of which was the only chick to fledge in 2020. Her previous mate, #462, is still alive and tending to their fledgling from last year. The egg is estimated to have been laid on February 14, 2021.

Partners and support

Conservation efforts toward the recovery of the California condor are achieved only through partnerships amongst federal and state agencies, together with private land owners and organizations. The Huttons Bowl Condor Cam is made possible through access provided by private landowners, and through the financial and technical support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Santa Barbara Zoo, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Disney Conservation Fund and Friends of California Condors Wild and Free.

In California, wild condors are found in the mountains of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Kern counties, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 2021 the Service announced the creation of a new California condor release facility for the reintroduction of condors to Yurok Ancestral Territory and Redwood National Park in Northern California, returning the birds to the northern part of their historic range for the first time in a century.

Condors that have finished their bi-annual medicial work ups at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge wait on top of the flight pen for their mates and fellow flock members to be released. Credit: Jon Myatt/USFWS