One of last year’s hatchlings suns itself on rocks near the South Rim’s Lookout Studio.
A new pair is incubating at a site north of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab National Forest. Another pair established itself last year and is incubating at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument near the site where captive-bred condors are released into the wild. Hatching is expected to occur sometime in May with the chicks taking their first flights (fledging) in November.
Both birds of the new pair nesting in the Kaibab National Forest are fitted with satellite-monitored transmitters with Global Positioning System (GPS) capability. As a result, biologists were able to identify the area the condors occupied just prior to egg laying and locate the exact site for the nest cave. This is another testament to the value of these exceptional transmitters, which have been provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
There are currently nine birds wearing GPS transmitters and an additional eight transmitters ready to be deployed. The information gathered from the transmissions is proving invaluable in understanding condor movements, patterns and habits.
Egg laying and hatching in the wild, a critical element to achieving species recovery, continues to increase as the captive-bred and released condor population matures.
Releases began in Arizona in 1996. Wild production first occurred in 2003 when the first condor in two decades hatched and fledged in Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP). Last year two more young fledged from two different locations, one in GCNP and the other at the Vermilion Cliffs.
At the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, captive breeding is also off to a strong start. A total of 18 pairs of condors have laid 27 eggs to date. Dr. Bill Burnham, president of The Peregrine Fund, said, “We are looking forward to a record number of captive young being produced this year. With both wild and captive reproduction occurring, the program is making steady progress toward the eventual goal of restoration and de-listing of an endangered species.”
Five young condors were released at the Vermilion Cliffs site on March 1. Approximately 70 condor enthusiasts witnessed the event. Four of the five birds took their first flights within a few hours after the release facility door was opened; the fifth bird took a little longer.
There are now 52 condors flying free in Arizona. An additional nine birds being held in the Vermilion Cliffs conditioning pen will be released throughout the year as they are ready.
Regular updates on the California Condor Restoration Project in the
Southwest are provided in the Notes from the Field section of The Peregrine Fund’s Web site www.peregrinefund.org .
The historic Arizona reintroduction is a joint project between The Peregrine Fund, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Southern Utah’s Coalition of Resources and Economics, and numerous other partners.
Funding for the project has been provided by The Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Peter Pfendler, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Steve Martin and the Toledo Zoo, Disney Wildlife Conservation Awards, Kearny Alliance, Patagonia, Grand Canyon Conservation Fund, Philadelphia Foundation, S. Byers Trust, Globe Foundation, Conni Williams, Philanthropic Collaborative, Earth Friends, Steve Hoddy, Arizona Bureau of Land Management, and others.
The California condors are being released as a “non-essential/experimental population” under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. Section 10(j) provides that the species can be released in an area without impacting current or future land use planning. This authority has been spelled out further in an innovative agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local governments.
This Implementation Agreement spells out a positive working relationship between the federal government and the various local governments.