Watch Endangered California Condor Chick Grow Up

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Condor Cam is Now Streaming

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Condor Cam is making it possible for people all over the world to get up-close-and-personal with an endangered California Condor chick.

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

California Condor Chick #980

California Condor chick #980 hatched on April 10.

Its parents are 9-year-old female condor #563 and 19-year-old male condor #262.

This is the pair’s first nesting attempt together and their first year on the live streaming Condor Cam as a pair.

This is female condor #563’s second attempt at raising a chick, and the chick’s father, condor #262, fledged one other chick in the past with a previous mate.

California Condor Cam Attracting Worldwide Attention

Followers of the California Condor Cam watched a chick hatch live in the wild for the first time in history from another cliff-side nest on Hopper Mountain NWR in 2015.

Since then, live streaming video of California Condor chicks attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers from all over the world.

Condor mom #563 monitors and shields her freshly hatched chick in the Pole Canyon nest, on Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Joseph Brandt/USFWS

“Today’s technology allows researchers like us to observe nests in remote locations without having to trek into the backcountry and wait for days, sometimes weeks, at observation blinds for a glimpse of the condors,” says Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s director of conservation and science.

“With this live stream, the public can share in the thrill of seeing these rare and highly endangered birds care for their chick, and follow its development before it takes its first flight”

What was once only seen by a few scientists is now available to anyone with an Internet connection.

READ: Endangered Bermuda Petrel Lays an Egg

2018 Nesting Season Sets Record for Southern California Flock

In California, wild condors nest, roost, or fly in the mountains of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Kern, Tulare, and Fresno counties, and the western Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The 2018 nesting season was a record-breaking one, with 12 nests in the mountains of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Kern counties.

Six of those nests were successful, the most ever in the Southern California flock.

California condor #563, mother to condor chick #980, both of which are featured in the 2019 live streaming Condor Cam. Photo credit: USFWS
California condor #563, mother to condor chick #980, both of which are featured in the 2019 live streaming Condor Cam. Photo credit: USFWS

Successful Nesting Season Key for Condor Recovery Program

“The success of last year’s nesting season was really monumental for the condor recovery program and a testament to the hard work of all the partners involved in this effort,” says Nicole Weprin, a wildlife biologist with the Service’s California Condor Recovery Program.

“We’re hopeful for another successful nesting season this year and thrilled that the public can share in our excitement by watching the Condor Cam.”

California Condor Population Growing

The number of California Condors dropped dramatically in the mid-20th century, leading the Service 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, due to intensive, ongoing captive breeding and recovery efforts led by the Service in conjunction with multiple public and private partners, the California Condor population has grown to just under 490 birds worldwide, with more than half of the population flying free.

California condor #262, father to condor chick #980, both of which are featured in the 2019 live streaming Condor Cam. Photo credit: USFWS
California condor #262, father to condor chick #980, both of which are featured in the 2019 live streaming Condor Cam. Photo credit: USFWS

Lead Poisoning Biggest Threat to Condors

Today the number one killer of California Condors is lead poisoning, the result of condors feeding on carcasses containing lead bullet fragments.

Peer-reviewed research shows that lead poisoning is a serious health problem for both wildlife and humans.

The Service is working with partner organizations and the hunting community as it transitions to the use of non-lead ammunition alternatives.

Hunters are continuing their proud tradition of wildlife conservation by using these non-lead alternatives.

Micro-Trash Threat to Condor Chicks

Another threat specific to condor chicks is “micro-trash.”

Micro-trash includes 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.

Feeding of micro trash isn’t entirely understood, but 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.

Condor Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts toward the recovery of the California Condor are achieved only through partnerships among federal and state agencies, together with private landowners and organizations.

The Pole Canyon 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.

Other important organizations include the 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.

The condor cams are unlike any other offering on the Internet.

“Each year we’ve streamed from a different site and pair, and the differences among all these nests and individuals have given viewers a unique opportunity to understand more of the richness and variability of the condor’s life history,” says Charles Eldermire, Cornell Lab Bird Cams project leader.

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

Watch the Condor Cam at www.allaboutbirds.org/condors

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