Conserving the Nature of America
Report
Watch an endangered California condor chick in the wild LIVE

May 31, 2017

Contact(s):

Joseph Brandt - Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: 805-644-5185 ext. 284 OR Robyn Gerstenslager: 805-701-5751
Estelle Sandhaus – Santa Barbara Zoo: 805-962-5339 ext. 192
Pat Leonard – The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: 607-254-2137


Two condors with mountains behind them

California condors #513 and #206. Credit: Stephanie Herrera/USFWS Intern

LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST (May 31, 2017) – For the third year in a row the public has the unique opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with an endangered California condor chick through livestreaming video of a California condor nest. The chick, which is 50-days-old today, and its parents live in the remote mountains near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Ventura County, California.

“We are excited to share with the world another view into a California condor nest, and allow the public a glimpse into the day-to-day activities of these amazing birds,” said Joseph Brandt, supervisory wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Hopper Mountain NWR. “The livestreaming nest camera allows people from around the world to personally connect with these magnificent and endangered birds, and learn what is needed to save them.”

The pair raising California condor chick #871 is eight-year-old female condor #513 and 18-year-old male condor #206. The pair used this same nest site in 2015 and this is their third attempt at nesting together. This is their first year to be featured on the livestreaming nest camera.

“Webcam viewers will see the rich social interactions of these intelligent birds, such as the two adults sharing parental duties, and their interactions with each other and the chick,” said Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, director of conservation and research at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “Condor chicks actually engage in ‘play,’ by pouncing on and grabbing feathers and sticks, for instance. It’s a thrill to watch the chick grow, learn, and play under the watchful eyes of its dedicated parents.”

Last year’s livestreaming video of a California condor chick hatching gained worldwide attention – nearly 1 million views from 150 countries and 19 million minutes, or 36 years of watch time.

"Last year's live condor cam at Koford’s Ridge gave tens of thousands of viewers across the world their first close up view of what it takes to raise a condor; this year, we're excited to introduce a different condor family, trying for their first successful nest on the open cliffs of Devils Gate,” said Cornell Bird Cams Project Leader Charles Eldermire.

Unfortunately the chick featured on last year’s nest camera died due to unknown causes, but biologists and other conservation partners are hopeful for a successful year of California condor breeding, with at least 11 active nests in California.

The number of California condors dropped dramatically in the mid-20th century, leading the USFWS to designate the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. By 1982 there were only 22 of the iconic birds left in the wild. Today there are approximately 276 California condors living in the wild, with another 200 in captive breeding populations. The birds do still face threats to their existence, with lead poisoning as the leading cause of wild California condor deaths. California condors, and their chicks, ingest the lead after feeding on carcasses of animals shot with lead bullets.

Another threat specific to condor nests is “micro trash.” Micro trash are small coin-sized trash items such as, nuts, bolts, washers, copper wire, plastic, bottle caps, glass, and spent ammunition cartridges. Condor parents collect these items and feed them to their chick which can cause serious problems with the chick’s development. While it is not completely understood why this occurs, many biologists believe that the condor parents mistake these items for pieces of bone and shell which provides a source of calcium if fed to the chick.

“Nest cameras like this one were first used as a management tool to help biologists monitor the nests for problems, like lead poising and micro trash ingestion, so that we could intervene on behalf of the chicks if needed,” said Brandt. “After watching the footage we realized that it was also an incredible opportunity to show the world just how caring and attentive condor parents can be, not to mention the comical behaviors of the chicks.”

Conservation efforts toward the recovery of the California condor are achieved only through partnerships amongst federal, state and private agencies. The Hopper Mountain NWR nest camera is made possible through the financial and technical support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Santa Barbara Zoo, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and Friends of California Condors Wild and Free

For answers to commonly asked questions about the California condor nest camera, the chick and its parents visit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/bird-cams-faq-california-condor-nest/ or https://www.fws.gov/cno/es/CalCondor/CondorCam.html

 

The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants. The Hopper Mountain NWR Complex manages four National Wildlife Refuges, and is headquartered in Ventura, California. It serves as the lead office for the California Condor Recovery Program.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at birds.cornell.edu

Known as one of the world’s most beautiful zoos, the Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to more than 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA cooperative programs for endangered species including Asian elephant, California condor, Channel Island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. The Santa Barbara Zoo is the region’s top paid visitor attraction, attracting nearly 500,000 guests yearly, and has more than 13,000 members. Visit www.sbzoo.org.

Photos and B-ROLL


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