Condor 305 preens in its cave in the Grand Canyon.
Minutes after landing, the chick began to explore its environment, tugging on a yucca plant and hopping from boulder to boulder.
“We waited and hoped so long for this to happen that being part of it was indescribable!” Osborn said.
“Our biggest worry after the chick left the cave was how long it would take for the parents to find it,” said Chad Olson, Raptor Technician for the National Park Service. “Both parents were away from the area when the chick fledged. To our great relief, female 127 flew to the nest about two hours after the chick fledged, realized the chick was not in the nest cave, immediately found it, and dropped down to feed it. Since fledging is such a dangerous time for the chick, it is tremendous to be past this and on to another exciting phase.”
The chick is healthy and alert to its surroundings, and it will be closely monitored to assure its continued health. Biologists are planning to attach telemetry equipment and assess overall health issues.
The youngster’s first flight wasn’t just good news for those who have watched it up close for the past several months.
“A fledgling condor chick spreads its wings and flies into the wild, and not just the parents share in the pride,” said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. “The partners who have worked for decades to rescue this species from the brink of extinction see it as a great cause for hope.”
The California condor was included on the first Federal Endangered Species List in 1967.
“I have watched adult condors soaring above the spectacular beauty of the Grand Canyon. The birth and flight of this young condor creates optimism that condors will flourish in the Canyon for many generations to come,” Norton said.
Signs were there
Biologists first suspected that Condors 123 and 127 were incubating an egg in March. Daily observations were made, with assistance from a group of “Nestwatch” volunteers. The parents became very attentive to the nest in early May and the existence of the chick was confirmed on Aug. 18 after biologists made an arduous 24-mile hike in 100-degree heat down to below the nesting cave. Daily monitoring continued.
“We are very pleased about this new step in the recovery of the California condor species,” said Joseph Alston, Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. “We are proud to be a part of this highly anticipated and monumental event for both the park and the Colorado Plateau. We look forward to working with our partners in order to ensure the well-being of this new arrival to the condor population and to ensure continued success in the program.”
Three pairs of California condors produced eggs in Arizona in 2003 – one in the Bureau of Land Management’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and two in Grand Canyon National Park. Two of the eggs did not hatch, which is not uncommon for California condors during their early breeding years. In fact, this was the second egg laid by Condor 127 and the third laid by Condor 119. In California this year, one egg was laid and hatched in early May, but, unfortunately, the chick did not survive.
As Roger Taylor, Arizona Strip Field Manager for the Bureau of Land Management said, “We have been anxiously awaiting this bird’s first flight. With the good condor viewing opportunities that are typically available along the Vermilion Cliffs, perhaps the public will have an opportunity to view the young condor this winter.”
Ensuring the future
“The significance of the first wild-hatched condor in Arizona is tremendous. While captive-bred condors have exceeded our expectations, it is this chick and others like it in the future that ensure condor recovery in Arizona,” said Arizona Game and Fish Director Duane Shroufe.
“The partners have watched this chick prepare to fledge with as much anticipation as any natural parent might,” said H. Dale Hall, Southwest Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We all wish the best for this fledgling and look forward to further successes.”
The historic Arizona reintroduction is a joint project among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, Southern Utah’s Coalition of Resources and Economics, and others.
Funding for the project is being provided by The Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Peter Pfendler, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund Awards, Steve Martin/Natural Encounters, Grand Canyon National Park Foundation, Bureau of Land Management, Grand Canyon National Park, Kearney Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, Patagonia, Turner Foundation, Globe Foundation, Earth Friends, Arizona Public Service, Wallace Research Foundation, Mattie Wattis Harris Foundation, Arizona Community Foundation, Oracle Corporation, Grand Canyon Conservation Fund, and others.
Images and other information are available from the following Web sites:
The Peregrine Fund: www.peregrinefund.org
The Grand Canyon National Park Foundation: www.gcnpf.org
Grand Canyon National Park: www.nps.gov/grca