“I think it is important to reiterate that number 342 left the nest cave on its own beyond a doubt,” said Fairchild. “It did not slip and was not forcefully fledged by an outside source. It flew because of its own desire to do so.”
Condor chick 350, which also hatched in mid-May, fledged successfully on Thursday, Nov. 22 at 4:46 p.m. The fledging was witnessed by Chad Olsen and Fairchild.
“What an amazing first flight!” said Olsen, a raptor biologist for the park. “Unlike the chick that fledged last year, this chickmanaged to glide a long way and just about landed on the cliff face, which would have been an incredible feat considering the sheerness of the cliff. This was definitely the best Thanksgiving I could have ever imagined.”
This is the second consecutive year in which wild California condors have hatched and fledged in Arizona since releases began in 1996, bringing the total of free-flying condors in Arizona to 49. Last year, a male condor fledged at Grand Canyon – the first fledging of a wild-hatched chick in more than 20 years. On Nov. 4, a condor fledged near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, the first fledging in California since the endangered birds were brought into captivity for their protection and to initiate a captive breeding and release recovery program.
As the largest flighted bird in North America, with a wingspan reaching up to nine and a half feet, condors typically fledge full-grown at about six months of age; however juvenile condors may be dependent on their parents for more than a year. They typically don’t reach reproductive maturity until they are five to eight years old.
The California condor was included on the first Federal Endangered Species List in 1967 and is currently one of the most endangered birds in North America.
In mid-December, between 10 and 14 captive-bred condors will be transported from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, to the release site at Vermilion Cliffs. These birds will be held in the release pen for three to 12 months to ready them for survival in the wild.
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 at 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, Southern Utah’s Coalition of Resources and Economics and numerous other partners.
Funding for the project is provided by The Peregrine Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Peter Pfendler, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Charles Engelhard Foundation, Arizona Fish and Game, Steve Martin and the Toledo Zoo, the Steele-Reese Foundation, Disney Wildlife Conservation Awards, Kearny Alliance, Patagonia, Philadelphia Foundation, S. Byers Trust, Globe Foundation, Conni Pfendler, Philanthropic Collaborative, Earth Friends, Steve Hoddy, Grand Canyon Conservation Fund, Arizona Bureau of Land Management and others.