LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST -
Santa Barbara Zoo, Cornell Lab, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Press Release
For the third year in a row the public has the unique opportunity to get up‐close‐and‐personal with an endangered California condor chick through livestreaming video of a California condor nest.
The chick, which is 50‐days‐old today, and its parents live in the remote mountains near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Ventura County, California. This “Condor Cam” goes live at 8 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, May 31.
“We are excited to share with the world another view into a California condor nest, and allow the public a glimpse into the day‐to‐day activities of these amazing birds,” said Joseph Brandt, supervisory wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Hopper Mountain NWR. “The livestreaming nest camera allows people from around the world to personally connect with these magnificent and endangered birds, and learn what is needed to save them.”
The pair raising California condor chick #871 is eight‐year‐old female condor #513 and 18‐year‐old male condor #206. The pair used this same nest site in 2015 and this is their third attempt at nesting together. This is their first year to be featured on the livestreaming nest camera.
“Webcam viewers will see the rich social interactions of these intelligent birds, such as the two adults sharing parental duties, and their interactions with each other and the chick,” said Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, director of conservation and research at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “Condor chicks actually engage in ‘play,’ by pouncing on and grabbing feathers and sticks, for instance. It’s a thrill to watch the chick grow, learn, and play under the watchful eyes of its dedicated parents.”
Last year’s livestreaming video of a California condor chick hatching gained worldwide attention – nearly 1 million views from 150 countries and 19 million minutes, or 36 years of watch time.
"Last year's live condor cam at Koford’s Ridge gave tens of thousands of viewers across the world their first close up view of what it takes to raise a condor; this year, we're excited to introduce a different condor family, trying for their first successful nest on the open cliffs of Devils Gate,” said Charles Eldermire, bird camera project leader with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Unfortunately the chick featured on last year’s nest camera died due to unknown causes, but biologists and other conservation partners are hopeful for a successful year of California condor breeding, with at least 11 active nests in California.
The number of California condors dropped dramatically in the mid‐20th century, leading the USFWS to designate the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. By 1987 there were only 22 of the iconic birds left in the wild. Today there are approximately 276 California condors living in the wild, with another 200 in captive breeding populations.
The birds do still face threats to their existence, with lead poisoning as the leading cause of wild California condor deaths. California condors, and their chicks, ingest the lead after feeding on carcasses of animals shot with lead bullets.
Another threat specific to condor nests is “micro trash.” Micro trash are 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. While it is not completely understood why this occurs, 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.
“Nest cameras like this one were first used as a management tool to help biologists monitor the nests for problems, like lead poising and micro trash ingestion, so that we could intervene on behalf of the chicks if needed,” said Brandt. “After watching the footage we realized that it was also an incredible opportunity to show the world just how caring and attentive condor parents can be, not to mention the comical behaviors of the chicks.”