Ugly Yet Beautiful

Watch A California Condor’s Nest on Cornell Lab’s Bird Cams

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I find the beauty in things others see as ugly, like Birkenstocks, swamps, pond muck, rusty metal, Turkey Vultures, and California Condors.

Of course, I receive my share of odd looks when I refer to them as beautiful. Still, there’s no changing my feelings, especially when I’m talking about Turkey Vultures and California Condors.

The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a unique bird and remarkable for several reasons.

What Makes a Condor So Special

Condors are one of the largest flying birds in the world, and when it soars, the bird’s wings spread more than nine feet from tip to tip.

Next time you’re at a birds of prey show go to the “What’s Your Wingspan?” display and outstretch your arms to see where you rate.

The largest wingspan belongs to the California Condor, next is the Golden Eagle, and then the Turkey Vulture.

Most adults rate at least a Turkey Vulture wingspan to give you a sense of the expansiveness of a condor’s wings.

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When a California Condor soars the bird’s wings spread more than nine feet from tip to tip

Incredible Ability to Soar

What makes condors so incredible is the bird’s ability to soar and glide for hours without beating its wings.

Rising thousands of feet overhead on air currents, California Condors glide long distances, sometimes at more than 55 miles per hour.

Condors are part of nature’s cleanup crew, and from way up in the air, they search for dead animals, like deer or cattle.

Even though these birds are an essential part of our ecosystem, their numbers dropped dramatically in the mid-20th century due to poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction.

By 1982, with only 22 of the iconic birds left in the wild, the California Condor was an endangered species.

Thanks to intensive, ongoing captive breeding and recovery efforts, the California Condor population is growing.

According to the Peregrine Fund, there are just over 500 birds worldwide, with more than half of the population flying free.

What is not to love about a bird playing such a critical role in our ecosystem.

The condor is defying the odds of being nearly extinct and staging one of the greatest comebacks in nature.

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Family time at the California Condor’s nest

Watch A California Condor’s Nest

Now we can all get up close and personal with an endangered California Condor chick.

Watch a live streaming video of a cliff-side nest in a canyon near the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California.

The feed is on Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cam’s website, and it’s incredible peeking into the lives of a new condor chick throughout the day.

It’s quickly becoming my favorite reality TV show, and I keep it on in the corner of my iMac all day long. Yes, I even peek after dark to make sure the chick is safe.

Condor Chick #1075

California Condor chick #1075 hatched on April 10, 2021, and its parents are ten-year-old female condor #594 and 15-year-old male condor #374.

This is the pair’s first nesting attempt together, and they are using a nest cavity used in 2018 by #374 and his former mate.

Female condor #594 previously paired with male condor #462 in 2018 and 2020, successfully fledging one chick each year.

This year marks male condor #374’s sixth nesting attempt at raising a chick after successfully fledging four chicks in previous years.

The fact that Cornell Lab of Ornithology has such a thorough history about this chick’s parents demonstrates the importance of this tiny bird to the continuation of its species.

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Mom #594 arrives at the nest to greet condor chick #1075

Challenges of Being a Condor

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 stretches decades.

“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,” says Charles Eldermire, Cornell Lab Bird Cams project leader.

That’s not just good for viewers—it’s good for the condors, too.

The 2020 nesting season resulted in just one successfully fledged chick, condor #1048, from parents #594 and #462. However, the future is looking bright for 2021, with 11 active nests in the Southern California flock.

We’re all appreciative of having access to The Huttons Bowl Condor Cam.

It’s made possible through access provided by private landowners and through the financial and technical support of the following organizations.

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.

Now I got to run. I need to get back to watching the condor’s nest.

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