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Condor Update Archive: Past Updates


October 18, 2013 - NOTES FROM THE FIELD, Condor Update

Condor Enthusiasts,

Here you may download the updated condor tag chart & tables. Condor Chart 10-18-2013 (111 kb PDF)


In addition to this:

Ten condors were transferred from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Bosie, Idaho to the Vermilion Cliffs Release Pens. Three (condors 647, 653, and 655) were released on September 28th. Necropsy results are in for 413 and 592.

413, male, Tag 13, hatched in 2006, released in 2010; found dead and intact on 19 June; cause of death- vehicular collision.

592, female, Tag L2, hatched in 2011, released in 2012; found dead and scavenged on 29 June; cause of death- coyote predation.

Breeding status update:

For the first time since the beginning of the reintroduction into Arizona, there are 4 confirmed wild chicks! As of this update, all our still alive and one (chick 722) fledged on October 10th.

234 and 280, Grand Canyon (Battleship Cave) - estimated lay date of 4 March 2013, - CHICK (SB 719) - estimated hatch 30 Apr 13 - Confirmed visual of chick 30 May 2013


122 and 316, Grand Canyon - estimated lay date of 6 March 2013, CHICK (SB 723) - estimated hatch date of 2 May 13. Jean Lawrence, Grand Canyon's condor tech, was able to get the first visual of chick on September 16th. Great work Jean!


Trio of 273M03, 302F03, and 354F04- estimated lay date of 10 March 2013, CHICK (SB 722) - estimated hatch date of 6 May 2013 - Confirmed visual of chick 30 Jun 2013. Chick fledged on October 10th.


158 and 346, Kaibab - estimated lay date of 25 March 2013, CHICK (SB 720) parents - estimated hatch date of 21 May 13- Confirmed visual of chick on 3 June 2013.


Current population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of August 31, 2013

World Total: 430

Wild Population: 229

o California Population: 134

o Baja California, Mexico Population: 30

o Arizona/Utah Population: 76

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 201


Janice Stroud-Settles, Wildlife Biologist
Division of Science and Resource Management
Grand Canyon National Park
 

July 10, 2013 - NOTES FROM THE FIELD, Condor Update

Condor Enthusiasts,

Here you may download the updated condor tag chart & tables. Condor Chart 07-10-2013 (320 kb PDF)


In addition to this:

413, male, Tag 13, hatched in 2006, released in 2010; found dead and intact on 19 June; cause of death TBD

592, female, Tag L2, hatched in 2011, released in 2012; found dead and scavenged on 29 June; cause of death TBD

553, male, Tag 5, hatched in 2010, released in 2012; recovered scavenged and desiccated, Unknown cause of death.

133, female, Tag 33, hatched in 1996, released in 1996; cause of death was from blunt force trauma to the back resulting in fractures of the ribs and spinal column.

210, female, Tag 10, hatched in 1999, released in 2000; cause of death was from acute lead poisoning. Liver lead level were in excess of 4000 ug/dl. 10 lead fragments were discovered in her digestive tract and gut contents revealed deer as part of the last meal ingested.

274, 371, 393, and 581, were all removed from the population since they have missing for quite some time and are assumed dead with unknown cause of death.


Breeding status update:

Trio of 193/243 and 241, East Kaibab - estimated lay date of 16 February 2013 - FAILED- egg found broken 17 February 2013, "likely" raven predation

266 and 296, Vermilion Cliffs- estimated lay date of 18 Feb 2013 - FAILED - failed on 18 May 2013, no signs of eggshell or chick upon investigation

234 and 280, Grand Canyon (Battleship Cave) - estimated lay date of 4 March 2013, - CHICK (SB 719) - estimated hatch 30 Apr 13 - Confirmed visual of chick 30 May 2013

122 and 316, Grand Canyon - estimated lay date of 6 March 2013, STILL ACTIVE - estimated hatch date of 2 May 13, remains active but no confirmation of chick as of yet.

Trio of 273M03, 302F03, and 354F04 - estimated lay date of 10 March 2013, CHICK (SB???) - estimated hatch date of 6 May 2013 - Confirmed visual of chick 30 Jun 2013.

158 and 346, Kaibab - estimated lay date of 25 March 2013, CHICK (SB 720) parents - estimated hatch date of 21 May 13- Confirmed visual of chick on 3 June 2013.

Trio of 193/243 and 241, East Kaibab - estimated recycle lay date of 4 April 2013, FAILED - new location, failed to hatch.


Current population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of May 31, 2013

World Total: 435

Wild Population: 237

o California Population: 134

o Baja California, Mexico Population: 30

o Arizona/Utah Population: 73

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 198


Janice Stroud-Settles, Wildlife Biologist
Division of Science and Resource Management
Grand Canyon National Park
 

July 10, 2013 - NOTES FROM THE FIELD, Condor Update

Condor Enthusiasts,

Here you may download the updated condor tag chart & tables. Condor Chart 07-10-2013 (320 kb PDF)


In addition to this:

413, male, Tag 13, hatched in 2006, released in 2010; found dead and intact on 19 June; cause of death TBD

592, female, Tag L2, hatched in 2011, released in 2012; found dead and scavenged on 29 June; cause of death TBD

553, male, Tag 5, hatched in 2010, released in 2012; recovered scavenged and desiccated, Unknown cause of death.

133, female, Tag 33, hatched in 1996, released in 1996; cause of death was from blunt force trauma to the back resulting in fractures of the ribs and spinal column.

210, female, Tag 10, hatched in 1999, released in 2000; cause of death was from acute lead poisoning. Liver lead level were in excess of 4000 ug/dl. 10 lead fragments were discovered in her digestive tract and gut contents revealed deer as part of the last meal ingested.

274, 371, 393, and 581, were all removed from the population since they have missing for quite some time and are assumed dead with unknown cause of death.


Breeding status update:

Trio of 193/243 and 241, East Kaibab - estimated lay date of 16 February 2013 - FAILED- egg found broken 17 February 2013, "likely" raven predation

266 and 296, Vermilion Cliffs- estimated lay date of 18 Feb 2013 - FAILED - failed on 18 May 2013, no signs of eggshell or chick upon investigation

234 and 280, Grand Canyon (Battleship Cave) - estimated lay date of 4 March 2013, - CHICK (SB 719) - estimated hatch 30 Apr 13 - Confirmed visual of chick 30 May 2013

122 and 316, Grand Canyon - estimated lay date of 6 March 2013, STILL ACTIVE - estimated hatch date of 2 May 13, remains active but no confirmation of chick as of yet.

Trio of 273M03, 302F03, and 354F04 - estimated lay date of 10 March 2013, CHICK (SB???) - estimated hatch date of 6 May 2013 - Confirmed visual of chick 30 Jun 2013.

158 and 346, Kaibab - estimated lay date of 25 March 2013, CHICK (SB 720) parents - estimated hatch date of 21 May 13- Confirmed visual of chick on 3 June 2013.

Trio of 193/243 and 241, East Kaibab - estimated recycle lay date of 4 April 2013, FAILED - new location, failed to hatch.


Current population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of May 31, 2013

World Total: 435

Wild Population: 237

o California Population: 134

o Baja California, Mexico Population: 30

o Arizona/Utah Population: 73

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 198


Janice Stroud-Settles, Wildlife Biologist
Division of Science and Resource Management
Grand Canyon National Park
 

April 26, 2013 - NOTES FROM THE FIELD, Condor Update

Hello Condor enthusiasts,

Here you may download an updated condor tag chart & tables. Condor Chart 04-26-2013 (238kb PDF)

In addition to this, I do have 4 confirmed moralities to report:

133, female, Tag 33, hatched in 1996, released in 1996; cause of death still being determined

210, female, Tag 10, hatched in 1999, released in 2000; cause of death still being determined

352, female, Tag-52, hatched in 2004, released in 2005: died of unknown causes due to body being unrecoverable

484, female, Tag 84, hatched in 2008, released in 2010; died of unknown causes

I previously reported the death of female 343 and necropsy results indicated she died of lead poisoning. Also female condor 393, who was hatched in 2005 and released in 2009, is suspected to be dead since her transmitter signal was heard in mortality mode, but her body has not been recovered.

This winter has obviously been bad in regards to condor deaths. A total of 7 condors deaths have been confirmed since early December, including 3 breeding females (133, 210, and 343).

The Peregrine Fund was very busy through the winter, having captured and tested the blood-lead levels for 72 condor of AZ/UT condor population. This year's trapping results are showing a very high level of lead poisoning. 28 condors were treated for lead poisoning this winter which is up from the previous lead exposure season.

On a more positive note, there is 1 confirmed wild nest and 5 suspected wild nests in the AZ/UT population. Please refer to the condor chart for information on breeding pairs and estimated egg lay dates and locations. Grand Canyon biologists and volunteers have been busy monitoring the activity of 2 nest caves that can be viewed from the South Rim. The nest cave of 234/280 can be viewed from Hopi Point. The exact nest cave of 122/316 is still being determined, but biologists have narrowed down the location to a specific wall off the Tower of Ra formation. This nesting pair a bit harder to monitor since we have to drive west of Hermits Rest and then hike to the rim. With any luck we'll be monitoring the behaviors of proud parents soon!


Current population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service,
as of March 31, 2013

World Total: 404

Wild Population: 234

o California Population: 132

o Baja California, Mexico Population: 29

o Arizona/Utah Population: 73

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 170


Janice Stroud-Settles, Wildlife Biologist
Division of Science and Resource Management
Grand Canyon National Park
 

January 18, 2013 - NOTES FROM THE FIELD, Condor Update

Hello Condor enthusiasts,

Just below, you may download an updated and revamped condor chart dated January 18, 2013. You'll find several new tables in this PDF document including: a tag number table, a reproductive table, a lead exposure table, and a mortality factor table. All these tables will hopefully make it easier for you to understand the current population and reintroduction status.

AZ/UT condor tag chart (January 18, 2013)

In addition to these tables, I do have 3 mortalities to report:

Condor 442 and Condor 466 died soon after being trapped. Both condors suffered extremely high lead levels and died soon after efforts to try and treat them were initiated.

Condor 343 was found dead in Zion National Park 2 days ago; cause of death is still being determined.
I did not include 343 in the mortality factors table since we are still waiting for necropsy results.

442, female, tag- F2, hatched in Boise in 2007, released in AZ Mar 2010
466, male, tag- H4, hatched in Boise in 2008, released in AZ Nov 2009
343, female, tag- A3, hatched in Boise in 2004, released in AZ Oct 2005

The death of 343 is a serious loss since she and condor 299 would have likely been the first successful breeding pair in Utah. Breeding attempts by this pair have been hampered the past few years due to one of them having to be held and treated for lead poisoning during the breeding season.

The Peregrine Fund is extremely busy capturing and testing blood-lead levels for the AZ/UT condor population. This year's trapping results are showing a very high level of lead poisoning Once trapping season wraps up, I'll send another update with those trapping and testing statistics.

3 new releases occurred in December at the Vermilion Cliffs:
605, male, tag - 05
619, male, tag - 19
620, female, tag - L0


Current population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service,
as of this update

World Total: 404

Wild Population: 231

o California Population: 126

o Baja California, Mexico Population: 28

o Arizona/Utah Population: 77

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 173


Janice Stroud-Settles , Wildlife Biologist
Division of Science and Resource Management
Grand Canyon National Park
 

October 18, 2012 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor enthusiasts,

Grand Canyon National Park is currently revamping how we disseminate condor information. These updates have been typically provided by Ranger Marker Marshall, but now will be provided by Grand Canyon's Wildlife Program. Thanks Marker for all your hard work on these over the years!

Here is the link to the AZ/UT condor tag chart (October 18, 2012) updated by Park Ranger Marshall.

Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service,
as of September 30, 2012
:

World Total: 410

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 180

Wild Population: 230

o California: 125

o Baja California, Mexico: 28

o Arizona/Utah: 77


In addition to the numbers, I have a couple pieces of information I'd like to highlight:

1) Condor chick 660, the chick of 187M/133F died last month. The chick was found below the nest cave. Necropsy results determined the chick died of unknown causes. With this fatality, all wild nests in the AZ/UT population failed during the 2012 breeding season.

2) The 3 newly released condors ( released on September 29th) are doing great!

3) There are 3 additional condors currently being held in the flight pens at Vermilion Cliffs awaiting release.

You may email questions to.

Janice Stroud-Settles
, Wildlife Biologist
Division of Science and Resource Management
Grand Canyon National Park
 

July 26, 2012 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor enthusiasts,

Once again, most of the information in this document comes from The Peregrine Fund's "Condor Cliffs" Facebook page at www.facebook.com/condorcliffs.

As usual, highlights are in bold blue.

Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of June 30, 2012:

World Total: 417 (a new record!)

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 184

Wild Population: 233

o California: 132 (including 11 chicks)

o Baja California, Mexico: 25

o Arizona/Utah: 76 (now 77) counting 2 (now 3!) confirmed chicks

Arizona Breeding Season News:

We have a third confirmed chick! But the nest of female 296/tag -6 and male 266/tag 66 in the Vermilion Cliffs failed since my last update. Our three 2012 chicks are:

#659: Offspring of experienced breeders 126F/26 and 114/tagless in a new cave in the Vermilion Cliffs. Hatch date: c. 4/4/12.

#660: Offspring of female 133/tag 33 and male 187/tag 87 in a west-facing cave in the Redwall limestone below Grand Canyon Village. This chick is sometimes visible through a spotting scope from Indian Garden Campground or from Powell Point on the Hermit Road.

#674: Offspring of female 210/tag 10 and 287M/-7. 674 is being raised in the same Tapeats Creek area cave that 210F & 134M (who later disappeared) used successfully in 2007. Peregrine Fund biologist Shaun Putz braved the heat of the inner canyon to spot this chick on July 17.

Other news:

The Arizona/Utah condor population suffered two fatalities in June (suspected coyote predation & lead poisoning), plus the permanent removal to captivity of a recently released 2-year-old. And the second of last year's two chicks was tagged.

Details:

Male 571/tag K1: As reported on Condor Cliffs June 3, this "two-year-old released for the first time this spring, has been permanently removed from our wild population and will be held in captivity at a zoo facility. He showed consistent behavior that made him unfit for survival in the wild, and instead of waiting for his almost certain demise, we made the decision to remove him from the population."

Male 552/tag K2: Coyote-scavenged carcass of this 2-year-old bird released February 24 was found on June 17.

7-year-old female 381/tag C1: Chris Parish of The Peregrine Fund reports "June 19, 2012 - Grand Canyon dispatch relayed information that Condor #381F … was reported to have been observed on the previous evening on a beach in South Canyon in rather poor condition. The next morning she was found dead. After a first failed attempt at recovery in the 100 plus degree heat, two TPF biologists were successful in recovering the carcass on Friday 22 June 2012. The carcass was intact and radiographs revealed what appears to be an intact pistol bullet … in the area of the ventriculus suggesting ingestion, but we'll let the pathologists determine what they can." Condor Cliffs displays the x-ray image showing the pistol bullet. As posted by The Peregrine Fund biologists, this is likely "not a hunting issue or season- animals are dispatched or put-down all of the time, and this is probably one of those cases."

#634, last year's Battleship chick, now wears tag L4. Posted on Condor Cliffs on June 26:
"Last week we trapped for the first time ever the last tagless, previously untouched, wild condor
in our population from last breeding season- wild-produced condor 634. After a quick bloodlead test that revealed minimal background levels, application of new tags (L4) and transmitters for daily ...movement tracking- we released him/her with a clean bill of health." A brief video of 634 being re-released was also posted on Condor Cliffs on June 26.

Condor Talks:

On the South Rim, Condor Talks are offered daily this summer at 5:00 pm at Lookout Studio.
On the
North Rim, Condor Talk takes place daily on the terrace of Grand Canyon Lodge at 4:30 pm.

On the South Rim, condors are being seen frequently, as is usually the case in July.

Updated Condor Chart:
I've updated the chart of California Condors in AZ/UT by Tag # as of July 26, 2012:
Download it here: http://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/upload/CondorChart20120726.pdf

Condor Cam:

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly the San Diego Wild Animal Park) still has a webcam on one of their condor chicks, which hatched on March 10, 2012. Check it out at: http://www.sandiegozooglobal.org/video/condor_cam. When it fledges and is no longer visible, you can read about that too on their blog.

Good luck spotting some condors!

Marker Marshall
Park Ranger (Interpretation)
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

 

The more recent updates are on top - Jump to the archived update for:

November 2009, ---- July 2009, --- June 2009, --- March 2009
December 2008, --- November 2008, --- May 2008.
 

June 4, 2012 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts,

Once again, most of the information in this document comes from The Peregrine Fund's "Condor Cliffs" Facebook page at www.facebook.com/condorcliffs.

As usual, highlights are in bold blue.


Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of April 30, 2012:


World Total: 405 (now probably somewhat higher-and already a new record!)

  • Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 179
  • Wild Population: 226
  • California: 125 (including 6 chicks)
  • Baja California, Mexico: 21
  • o Arizona/Utah: 78 (now 76) counting 2 confirmed chicks


Two condors in the Arizona/Utah population have been lost to predation since my March update. Both were newly released two-year-olds. Female 554/tag K4 was found dead on April 11, apparently killed by a golden eagle. And the coyote-eaten remains of female 548/tag 48 were found on May 14.


Arizona Breeding Season News:

Six nests have been confirmed this spring, resulting in two failures, two suspected chicks, and two confirmed chicks!The (known) nesting pairs are as follows:

  • Experienced breeders 126F/26 and 114/tagless are raising confirmed chick #659 in a new cave in the Vermilion Cliffs. Hatch date: c. 4/4/12.
  • Female 296/tag -6 and Male 266/tag 66 made their 2nd nesting attempt in the Vermilion Cliffs, and have a suspected chick. Hatch date: c. 4/13/12.
  • Female 346/tag A6 and male 158/tag 58 made a nesting attempt on the Kaibab plateau but their nest failed after one week of incubation.
  • Female 133/tag 33 and male 187/tag 87 turn out to be using a new, west-facing cave in the Redwall limestone below Grand Canyon Village. Confirmed chick # 660 already has a (very distant)photo posted on Condor Cliffs!
  • Female 302/tag 02 and male 273/tag 73 established the first nest yet in Glen Canyon.This nest hasfailed.
  • Female 210/tag 10 has split with 122M & paired with 287M/-7, who lost former mate 314F to lead poisoning this February. They have an active nest and suspected chick in the same cave in the Tapeats Creek area that 210F & 134M (who later disappeared) used successfully in 2007. (By my count 210F & 122M are our 3rd "divorce" in Arizona/Utah, which confirms my view that condors are a lot like humans! Do WE mate for life? Well, in theory….)

Insights from this week's two-day Condor Workshop in Springdale, UT:

Someone asked the first morning: "Why is this a Condor Workshop but nearly all the sessions are about lead?" The answer: "Because lead poisoning is the leading cause of mortality among wild California condors and the greatest obstacle to the recovery of the species." As carrion feeders, condors often find lead shot or fragments of lead rifle bullets in gut piles left by hunters and in the remains of sick or injured domestic animals and "varmints" dispatched by ranchers. Lead rifle bullets tend to leave about 15-30% of their mass behind in the carcass when the bullet passes through-sometimes over 200 fragments from one bullet. Copper and other forms of non-lead ammunition are less toxic and most importantly, they do not fragment. While hunters have a strong tradition of conservation and take great pains not to injure anything they're not going to eat, it's only since scientists started putting transmitters on condors that anyone realized how much collateral damage lead ammunition causes. And of course, the gut piles hunters leave behind CAN be a great food source for condors, eagles, and other scavengers-when lead-free.


Golden & bald eagles frequently succumb to lead poisoning, and during the conference a video of a bald eagle left weak and shaking uncontrollably from lead poisoning put tears in my eyes. One biologist described being part of an eagle restoration project in the Channel Islands years ago when alternatives to lead ammunition were hard to come by. He fed a young eagle a deer carcass from which he'd carefully cut away any meat he suspected could have lead in it, and found the eaglet became ill with lead toxicity anyway! He just hadn't realized how far the lead fragments can extend from the wound channel-the same reason whystudies have found unacceptable levels of lead contamination in venison donated to food banks. We heard from hunters who swear by the superior ballistics of copper bullets, and we saw demonstrations of the bullets' accuracy.


It seems the major drawbacks to switching over are the effort of identifying the right ammunition type and locating it, a slightly higherprice (though that is improving year to year as demand increases) and the need to go to a shooting range to accustom oneself to how the new ammunition works in one's old gun. Kathy Sullivan of the Arizona Game & Fish Department (AZGFD) tries to make it easy for hunters to find the right non-lead alternative for their guns; her latest list is under the "Non-lead ammunition" link at www.azgfd.gov/condor. She recommends that rifle hunters try a somewhat lower weight copper bullet than the lead bullet it replaces, since it won't lose the mass that lead bullets do.


Interestingly, none of the major players in the condor recovery program in Arizona and Utah are in favor of a ban on lead ammunition. For one thing, they point out that when this 10(j) "non-essential, experimental" population of condors was re-introduced to the area, it was under a law stipulating that "current and future land…uses such as…sport hunting should not be restricted due to the…condors." Besides, they point out that the reasons for switching are compelling, that hunters have a proud tradition of stepping up to the plate to conserve wildlife, and that education is likely to be more effective in changing behavior than the passage of a new hard-to-enforce law. With a combination of incentives and hunter education, the AZGFD got compliance from over 90% of hunters on the North Kaibab in 2011, who either switched to non-lead ammunition or removed their gut piles from the field. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is well behind Arizona in their non-lead program, but is and moving in the same direction as Arizona.

For a very comprehensive web site on this topic, see www.huntingwithnonlead.org.


Condor Talks:

On the South Rim, Condor Talks are offered daily this summer at 5:00 pm at Lookout Studio.
On the North Rim, the Condor Talk takes place daily on the terrace of Grand Canyon Lodge at 4:30 pm.


Updated Condor Chart:

I've updated the chart of California Condors in AZ/UT by Tag # as of June 4, 2012, and it may be downloaded here:
http://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/upload/CondorChart20120604.pdf


Condor Cam:

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly the San Diego Wild Animal Park) still has a webcam on one of their condor chicks, which hatched on March 10, 2012. Check it out at: http://www.sandiegozooglobal.org/video/condor_cam

Good luck spotting some condors!


--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

 

April 10, 2012 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts,

Most of the information in this document comes from The Peregrine Fund's "Condor Cliffs" Facebook page at facebook.com/condorcliffs, which gets updated as to the latest breeding news much more frequently than I can keep up with! Condor Cliffs is the BEST resource for keeping up on the condors of Arizona/Utah, and is the best place to post condor sightings, too. Peruse Condor Cliffs and you'll see that the Navajo Bridge on Highway 89A at Marble Canyon, AZ, has been the surest place to spot condors lately.

As usual, highlights are in bold blue.

Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service,
as of February 29, 2012:

386 - World Total (may be somewhat higher; a few eggs should have hatched in March or April)

173 - Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity)

213 - Wild Population

118 - California

18 - Baja California, Mexico

71 - Arizona/Utah 77 (now 79)

The Arizona/Utah numbers are up from 71 as of my last update in December. Nine birds have been released into the wild at Vermilion Cliffs during February and March. But three condors-all of them of breeding age-have also died of lead poisoning during the same period.

We lost female 314/tag -4 in February. She was nearly 9 years old and thought to have made an unsuccessful breeding attempt with male 287/-7 in the Great Thumb area of Grand Canyon in 2011, so this leaves him without a mate. We also lost female 253/53 in February. She was nearly 11 years old, and unmated since her Marble Canyon nest failed last April when her mate also died of lead poisoning. The most recent fatality was male 246/46. He was of breeding age (turning 11 this spring) but had not yet attempted a nest.

For those new to these updates,lead poisoning is THE most frequent cause of death of the condors in Arizona/Utah. As carrion feeders, they pick it up from the remains of game animals such as deer that were shot with lead ammunition. The Arizona Game and Fish Department's web site has a lot of good information on switching to non-lead ammunition, at

http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/california_condor_lead.shtml.

Since most of the condors spend more time in Utah than in Arizona these days, it's fortunate that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is also working to get information out about lead, and has a rebate program available for hunters in the Zion unit who buy non-lead ammunition.

Arizona Breeding Season News:
Last year's two fledglings, #610 from the "trio" nest and #634 from a nest in the Battleship formation within the Grand Canyon, are both doing great. Condor 610 now wears a blank tag on its left wing. 634 won't be tagged (or vaccinated for West Nile Virus, or tested for blood lead levels) until it ventures as far as The Peregrine Fund's release site in the Vermilion Cliffs, about 50 miles away from its Battleship nest cave - maybe this summer?

Five nests have been confirmed so far this spring, four of them still active as of recent reports. The nesting pairs are as follows:

  • Experienced breeders 126F/26 and 114/tagless are thought to have laid in a new cave near their usual one in the Vermilion Cliffs on February 7, the earliest lay date yet in Arizona. Their egg should have hatched on April 4, and as of April 6 there was no indication that it hadn't.
  • Female 296/tag -6 and Male 266/tag 66, who nested unsuccessfully in the Vermilion Cliffs last year, are trying again. They are thought to have laid on February 16, so their hatch date should be April 13 if all goes well.
  • Female 346/tag A6 and male 158/tag 58 made a nesting attempt on the Kaibab plateau but their nest failed after one week of incubation.
  • Female 133/tag 33 and male 187/tag 87 have returned to their old nest cave in the Grand Canyon below Grandeur Point, where they are thought to have laid the first week of March.
  • Female 302/tag 02 and male 273/tag 73 are a pair of first-time nesters, and have established the first nest yet in Glen Canyon, between Lees Ferry and the Glen Canyon Dam.

In the meanwhile, male 123/tag 23 has been courting female 297/tag 97. Male 350/tag -0 has been courting female 316/tag 16. Male 122/tag 22 is still paired with female 210/tag 10, and they were due to breed again this year. And male 299/tag 99 is still paired with female 343/tag A3, who seemed likely to nest with him last year near Angels Landing in Zion National Park. If any of these pairs turn out to be incubating an egg this spring, you'll see it reported on Condor Cliffs, facebook.com/condorcliffs.

Park Ranger Condor Talks:
Condor Talks are being offered daily at 3:00 p.m. at Lookout Studio on Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim. So far this spring it's been rare to see a condor at the program, although they are being seen here and there in the park most days. Once the weather warms up to where north-facing cliffs at 7,000 feet are appealing roosting spots for condors, the incidence of condor sightings at the program should increase.

Updated Condor Chart:
I've updated the chart of California Condors in AZ/UT by Tag # as of April 10, 2012, You may download it here (88kb pdf file)

Condor Cam:
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly the San Diego Wild Animal Park) has a webcam on one of their condor chicks, which hatched on March 10, 2012. Check it out at: www.sandiegozooglobal.org/video/condor_cam.

Enjoy the spring, and good luck spotting some condors!

--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

 


December 16, 2011 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts,
Here's a quick update before I disappear for the winter. As usual, highlights are in
bold blue.
Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of October 31, 2011:

394 - World Total

189 - Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity)

205 - Wild Population

111 - California (including 2 not-yet-fledged chicks in Southern California as of that date)

23 - Baja California, Mexico (including one new fledgling!)

71 - Arizona/Utah (now 73 after 2 birds were released 11/8/11)

Arizona Breeding Season News:
Following the fortunes of the California condor population can be an emotional roller coaster!The month of November offered rather a thrill ride for those watching for the fledging of chick #634, offspring of 234M/4 and 280F/80 in the Battleship formation below Grand Canyon Village.

On November 20, Sjors the long-time NPS volunteer at the bottom of Grand Canyon, was doing nest watch from the Tonto plateau.He gives the following (lightly edited) account:

At exactly 3:38 p.m. I am not sure if 634 jumped or got to the point of no return. Either way, 634 was now in flight. The flight was more like a controlled fall, more fall than control. It first was swinging back and forth falling like a wet leaf. Half way down the 400-foot Redwall cliff, 634 caught itself and went into a short horizontal glide. "Oh my god it's flying!" I thought. It even made a perfect U-turn gliding back. Then 634 made 3 attempts to land on the face of the cliff, but it was moving too fast to land. I could see 634 tap the wall with each attempt. The attempts threw 634 off its beautiful glide back into the scary controlled fall. Just 2 meters before reaching the very bottom of the Redwall cliff, the chick disappeared behind some bushes. So I could not witness the landing. By the speed 634 was coming down I would guess it was a hard landing or a crash. So I did not know the fate of 634. Was it injured? Was it alive?

The story continues, as told by Sjors:

I watched rest of the day and most of the next day, Nov 21, with no sign of 634. Dad 234 did come back and landed 20 meters above where 634 was last seen. So at least I knew 234 had found 634.

Nov 23 - Rangers Steve Rice and Emily Davis visited Horn. They spotted a condor at the bottom of the Redwall. Because of distance they were unable to identify if it was the chick or one of the parents.

Nov 25 and 26 - I returned to Horn and was able to confirm the condor at the base of the Redwall was Chick 634. I watch it flap its wings, hop around, climb up the cliff, and take a short flight. Wings and legs were fine. Chick 634 was O.K.

In later days I heard that 634 made it back up to the safety of the cliffs. Both parents have been around.

Grand Canyon National Park Wildlife Biologist Janice Stroud-Settles expresses thanks to Sjors, to Canyon District Ranger Steve Rice, and to Wildlife Biologist Adia Sovie.All have helped to monitor 634 since its fledging.She reports that the National Park Service and The Peregrine Fund will continue to monitor the chick through the winter months.

Park Ranger Condor Talks:
Condor Talks have been discontinued for the winter in Grand Canyon National Park, but will most likely start up again on the South Rim on March 1, 2012.


On "Condor Cliffs"

For condor news over the winter, as always you can keep an eye on The Peregrine Fund's "Condor Cliffs" Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CondorCliffs.

Recent entries tell of the Vermilion Cliffs release November 8 of two new condors, now added to the attached chart.They are: condor 541F/J4, a 2-year-old female from The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, and condor 530M/30, a 2-year-old male from the Los Angeles Zoo.

The Vermilion Cliffs fledgling, #610 is reported as doing well and there are photos to see on Condor Cliffs.

Updated Condor Chart
I've updated the chart
of California Condors in AZ/UT by Tag # as of December 16, 2011. The chart may be downloaded here.
http://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/upload/CondorChart20111216.pdf

Have a great winter!
--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

 


November 3, 2011 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts-

Sorry it's been quite a while since my last Condor Update of July 13, 2011!As usual, highlights are in bold blue.

Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of September 30, 2011:

World Total:396

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity):199

Wild Population: 197

California: 104 (including one new fledgling at Pinnacles and two new

fledglings plus two still-unfledged chicks in southern

California)

Baja California, Mexico: 23 (including one chick)

Arizona/Utah: 70 (now 71 after 2 birds were released and one chick died

in October)

Arizona Breeding Season News:

At my last update, we were at 68 condors in Arizona/Utah counting one confirmed chickon the East Kaibab plateau, being raised by trio 241F/41, 193M/93 & 243M/43. Since then, both suspected Grand Canyon chicks (the Battleship chick of 280F/80 & 234M/4, and the Pipe Creek chick of 133F/33 & 187M/87) were visually confirmed.[68+2=70.]This marks the first time we've had three confirmed chicks in Arizona, a happy milestone!

Unfortunately, the Pipe Creek chick (given studbook #633) was found dead on October 23 at the bottom of the Redwall limestone, directly below its nest. [70-1=69 wild condors.]Necropsy results are consistent with a fatal fall.

The East Kaibab "Trio" chick (studbook #610) and the Battleship chick (#634) are both doing very well. The Peregrine Fund's Field Manager Eddie Feltes had this to say about the "trio" in his September 1 "Notes from the Field" blog at http://blogs.peregrinefund.org/article/732:

"The now famous "Trio" nesting pair/group comprised of adult condors 193M, 241F, and 243M have drafted the disdain back in our faces from being that obnoxious group that is never going to successfully breed until they figure out this '2 condor male/female thing' has pulled it off. All three birds shared equal incubation duties, have shared equal time feeding the chick, equal time guarding the nest cave, and still to this day are tending to the now historical young condor SB#610. This is a 3-dimensional 1st by being the first ever successful raising of a chick by a trio of birds in both wild or captive populations of condors (a trio of condors hatched an egg in the wilds of CA in the past but never reared it past 7-10 days by lack of feeding it); the first ever chick to hatch on the Kaibab Plateau in AZ, and the first 600 level studbook bird in our population (the latter lacks true importance, but to us condor folk, it is fun to point out). This nesting location is in a very accessible location for our biologists to observe, making the whole process that much more significant by allowing us to document every stage from egg to fledging (said with fingers crossed)."

More recently, The Peregrine Fund (TPF) staff posted this happy report on their "Condor Cliffs" Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CondorCliffs:

"The trio-chick, condor 610, has successfully fledged! TPF biologist Julia Nadal observed 610 take multiple long lasting and controlled flights on Thursday 27-Oct-2011.Congrats trio! (even though we never thought we would be saying that)."
Check out the Condor Cliffs link to see a photo of #610 in soaring flight!
The Battleship chick (#634) had not fledged yet as of October 31, but its time is coming too. Grand Canyon National Park biologist Jean Lawrence reports:

"The condor team has been regularly receiving telemetry signals and visual sightings from 280 and 234. Chick #634 has recently been seen on Sunday, Oct 30 and Monday, Oct 31 with a full crop. Wing flapping, preening and sunbathing have been the primary activities."

Condor Volunteer Bob George adds of this chick that "it's been jumping around flapping its wings like mad, getting itself ready."(The Pipe Creek chick's nest cave mouth had been too narrow to allow this typical pre-fledging behavior, which may have somehow contributed to that chick's fatal fall.)The Battleship chick is thought to have hatched more than a month after the Trio chick. Also we have in the past had one Arizona chick fledge as late as December 22 or 23 (although Thanksgiving-ish is more typical), so patience may be in order.


Fatalities and Releases:

I am sorry to report that three Arizona/Utah condors have been declared dead since mid-July, including two that had fledged in the wild.#558, last year's Vermilion Cliffs fledgling, which was expected to be caught and tagged shortly, has been missing since early summer and is now presumed dead.Six-year-old male 387/tag C7 and 3-year-old male 476/tag H6, who was the 2008 Grandeur Point chick of 133F/33 and 187M/87, both went missing this spring.Over the summer, hikers found feathers, bones and tags for both birds in remote parts of southern Utah, but it was too late for a conclusive necropsy to determine cause of death. [69-3=66 wild condors.]

Eddie Feltes had this to say about the year's fatalities-ten of them not counting the recent death of the Pipe Creek chick-in his September 1 "Notes from the Field" posting:



"In this past year we have recorded our highest losses of free-flying condors to date, with almost all of them due to lead poisoning. And for those that went missing during the months of highest lead-exposure- the harsh winter months following the big game hunting seasons, lead is a major suspect for those mortalities."

On a happier note, five young condors have been released into the wild since my last update.On September 24, three young females were released publicly from the Vermilion Cliffs: 496/H9 (a 3-year-old from the Oregon Zoo), 516/J6 (a 2-year-old also from Portland), and 521/J1 (a 2-year-old from The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho).Then on October 14, two-year-old condors 523/J3 (a male from Boise) and 528/28 (a female from Portland) were also released. [66+5=71 wild condors in AZ/UT as of this writing, including one chick and one fledgling.]

Condor Talks:

A Condor Talk is offered daily at 3:00 p.m. through November 30 at Lookout Studio on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.By this time of year we only occasionally see condors at the talks, since it is deer and elk hunting season and the majority of the Arizona/Utah birds are seeking out gut piles left by hunters north of the park on the Kaibab National Forest and in southern Utah.But there is always a chance of a condor showing up, or being spotted way down below the rim at the Redwall level where both the Battleship and Pipe Creek nest caves are located.


--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park


 


July 13, 2011 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

Here is the latest Condor Chart by Tag Number (Updated October 26, 2011) 95kb pdf file

Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of May 31, 2011:

World Total: 396

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 200

Wild Population: 195

California: 108 (including 6 chicks: 2 in Pinnacles National Monument, 3 in southern California, and one in the Big Sur area)

Baja CA, Mexico: 19 (including one chick)

Arizona/Utah: 71 (counting one confirmed chick, but NOT the two other suspected chicks)


Arizona/Utah news:

The Arizona/Utah number is down three since April 30, due to the death of three condors by lead poisoning this spring. The press release about these deaths came out right after my last update, and may be found at:
http://www.peregrinefund.org/press_full.asp?id=208&category=California+Condor.

From Chris Parish of The Peregrine Fund, as quoted in the press release: "X-rays showed 18 shotgun pellets in the digestive system of one bird and 6 in another. The third had remains of a spent bullet in its system, all suggesting these scavengers died after eating one or more animal carcasses that had been shot." The condors that died were eleven-year-old male 223/3, six-year-old female 367/67, and nine-year-old male 270/70. 223 was the male from the Marble Canyon nest with 253F/53 this spring, and his death was the cause of its failure.

On a happier note, this summer for the first time we seem to have THREE condor chicks growing up in nest caves in Arizona! Chick #610 on the east Kaibab plateau, being raised by one female and two males, was first seen on April 22. The other two chicks, growing up in Redwall limestone caves in Grand Canyon National Park, have not yet been seen but almost certainly exist based on the behavior of their parents. These are the Battleship chick of 280F/80 and 234M/4, which likely hatched around May 27, and the Pipe Creek/Yaki Point chick of experienced breeders 133F/33 and 187M/87, which likely hatched around May 10.

Condor Talks take place daily this summer at Lookout Studio on the South Rim at 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., as well as on the back porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge (North Rim) at 4:30 p.m. At least on the South Rim, condors do sometimes show up for these programs, but no guarantees!


"Condor Cliffs" Facebook page:

The best place to keep up with the latest news about Arizona/Utah condors now has a simple website name, and you do not have to join or sign in to Facebook to visit it. Check out facebook.com/CondorCliffs for some nice California condor photos and video clips, as well as the latest news. Feel free to post your own images, too!

One recent tidbit posted June 27 on the Condor Cliffs page: "With temps holding above 100 for well over a week now, the majority of the condor population has shifted to the higher elevations of the Utah summer range, north of Zion Natl. Park....The summer range covers most of the area north of Zion, and east of Cedar City, UT; more specifically the Cedar Mountain area and all of the adjacent canyons that border it. This area is almost solely private land, so viewing opportunities are very limited. However, the Angel's Landing and Scout Lookout hikes inside Zion Park are great places to see the birds this time of year."

Until I have more news….

Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 

Mar. 26, 2011 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts—

This is a long Breeding Season update, but as usual the highlights are in bold blue.

Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of February 28, 2011:

World Total: 369
(This is down one since December 31; a breeding-age female condor from Baja California, Mexico, who was being treated for lead poisoning at the L.A. Zoo, died there on January 7.)

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 179

Wild Population:

190

California:

97

Baja California, Mexico:

20

Arizona/Utah:

74 (counting #122 in Phoenix for lead treatment)
73 now: following 1 mortality in March.
See "Sad News" below


As of February 28, 32 eggs had been laid this year in the four captive breeding facilities (the L.A. Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the Oregon Zoo in Portland and The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho). Five eggs had been confirmed in the wild in California: 2 each in southern California and Pinnacles National Monument, and another in the Big Sur area.

Arizona news (from conversations with Peregrine Fund staff Chris Parish and with Eddie Feltes in March 2011):

Male 122/tag 22, who was expected to nest again this year in the Tapeats Creek area with female 210/10, was transferred to Phoenix on January 19 to be treated for lead poisoning by Dr. Kathy Orr at Liberty Wildlife. He has recovered nicely, and will be returned to Vermilion Cliffs tomorrow, and re-released in another week. #210 has not re-mated, and there is just a slim chance that this pair could still produce an egg this year, though it’s unlikely.

As of March 3, just one egg was thought to exist thus far in Arizona, and it’s still the only visually confirmed egg although others are now suspected. This nest is a repeat performance by the trio of condors 241F/41, 193M/93, & 243M/43 on the east Kaibab plateau. Their nest failed last year, and hopes are not high that they will succeed this year unless they settle out into a single pair. But for now, all three birds are taking turns incubating and all appears to be going well.

Sad news from Eddie Feltes: Six-year-old female 366/C6 was recently found dead of unknown causes (lead was ruled out) on the Kaibab National Forest north of the park. She and male 203/03 are suspected to have had an egg in a nest cave in the Deer Creek area of Grand Canyon National Park. 203 is still spending a lot of time in the cave, but cannot possibly succeed in incubating alone.

Another recent disappointment: Eight-year-old male 299/99 recently showed up at the release site in poor condition and tested high for blood lead level; he was held and is undergoing chelation. This is all too common an occurrence among condors in the wild, but is especially disappointing in this case because he and female 343/A3 appeared to be on the verge of nesting in Zion National Park in Utah! They’d been seen regularly courting and mating in the vicinity of Angel’s Landing, and had shown interest in 3 different potential nest caves in that area. #343 is being held at Vermilion Cliffs too, to avoid breaking up the pair. But their odds of breeding this year are now much reduced.

Other suspected eggs:

Female 133/33 and male 187/87 seem to have produced an egg in a new cave, in the Pipe Springs drainage, just west of Yaki Point. This cave is visible from a spot on the rim just east of Mather Point! (Expect a call for nest watch volunteers sometime soon.)

Female 314/-4 and Male 287/-7 are suspected to have laid in an unidentified cave in the Redwall limestone in the vicinity of the Great Thumb (well to the west of the developed part of the South Rim, but within Grand Canyon National Park). This pair courted last year too, but never showed signs of an egg.

Female 253/53 and male 223/3 seem to have laid their 5th egg in four years in the river corridor within Marble Canyon, in the Soap Creek drainage within Grand Canyon National Park. It is suspected that at least some of their previous failures may have been due to ravens raiding their nest when the incubating parent was taking a brief break. This year they have chosen a new nest cave that seems to have less raven activity around it, so perhaps this will be their year!

Female 280/80 and male 234/4 have been seen frequently courting and mating around Plateau Point. Still no sign of a nest, but they have laid in the past below Buddha Temple and it is expected they might lay in that vicinity again sometime soon.

Most Eligible Bachelorette, female 316/16, an eight-year-old female who has still never mated, has been spending time with five-year-old male 423/E3, but there has been no sign of courtship, and he is on the young side for breeding. In the meanwhile, Most Eligible Bachelor, sixteen-year-old 123/23, who has fathered several chicks but lost mate 127 to lead poisoning last winter, has shown no signs of courting anyone this breeding season.

Last year’s Vermilion Cliffs fledgling, #558 (soon to receive tag 5) is doing well. He or she has fed about a dozen times on calf carcasses at the release site, but is still being fed by parents male 114/tagless and female 126/26. That pair has been observed courting and mating, and briefly showed signs of possibly having an egg in their usual nest cave. But with 558 still being fed and still showing up in that nest cave, it is unlikely that they will breed successfully this year.

Incidentally, the proffering of calf carcasses (still-born dairy calves and unwanted male dairy calves from several organic dairies) has changed a bit recently. Carcasses are still put out every three days at the Vermilion Cliffs release site, but instead of scattering them about artfully, they are placed in the release pen just as when trapping is being done. Coyotes have discovered Vermilion Cliffs as a source of food, and had been dragging off the carcasses during the night before the condors even saw them. The prevalence of coyotes meant danger to the condors, as well as a waste of good meat, but this seems to be solving the problem for now.

Three male condors have not been seen since December or early January: 420/20, 459/59 (the 2007 Vermilion Cliffs chick), and 331/31. They haven’t been written off yet, but could at some point be listed as missing and presumed dead.


I e-mailed Kathy Sullivan of Arizona Game & Fish Department about her continuing efforts to eliminate the use of lead bullets on the North Kaibab in Arizona. She responded with the following on March 4, 2011:

The free ammo program and gut pile raffle were both implemented again last fall. We had 87% voluntary participation from Kaibab hunters in 2010. We’ve had 80-90% participation for the past four years now!

We’re also continuing our outreach efforts full speed. I worked a non-lead ammo booth at the Sportsman’s Expo in PHX last weekend (contacting just under 1,000 hunters and shooters). I will also be staffing a non-lead ammo shooting booth at Game and Fish’s Outdoor Expo in PHX the last weekend of this month (also expected to reach ~ 1,000 people). Utah is also working on voluntary lead reduction efforts. UT Department of Wildlife implemented a non-lead ammo rebate coupon program last fall: if hunters bought non-lead ammo and sent the UPC symbol to UTDWR, they were mailed a $25 rebate check. Results will be presented next month.

Until I have more news….

Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 

Jan. 22, 2011 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

I’ve revised the condor tag chart due to some recent changes. You may download it here: December 17, 2010 Condor Tag Chart (100kb pdf file)

Specifically:
Two new birds were released on November 26 . Both are one-year-olds: male 520/J2 from the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and female 537/J7 from the Los Angeles Zoo. Also, the four birds missing since last winter or spring have been given up for dead. Those birds were 4-year-old females 404/E0, 414/E1 and 426/E6, and 3-year-old male 454/F4. All were captive-bred birds.

Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of December, 2010:

World Total: 370
(This is down 3 from last month due to 3 fatalities in southern California: 2 deaths by predation and one of unknown cause)

Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity): 189

Wild Population: 181

California: 85
Baja California, Mexico: 22
Arizona/Utah: 74 (unchanged)


Arizona condor news, from Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund:

I spoke to Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund today by phone. He reported that trapping continues at the Vermilion Cliffs release site, testing condors for lead poisoning and changing transmitter batteries. All but about a dozen birds have been trapped, and although several have been treated for lead poisoning on site by chelation (generally 2 shots a day for a week), none have been severe enough to require off-site treatment. Of the dozen birds not yet trapped, all are accounted for or known to have moved in the last few weeks, so it should just be a matter of time before they show up at Vermilion Cliffs to be trapped.

Eddie also reports that courtship season is beginning, and there are quite a few pairs showing signs of courtship already. In the South Rim area, male 234/tag 4 and female 280/tag 80 have been seen frequently down at Plateau Point, always a bit of a Lover's Lane for condors during the late winter/early spring months. This pair has nested below Buddha Temple in the past, but has not yet produced a chick. Last year they either skipped breeding or their nest failed before it could be confirmed. Another South Rim pair, male 187/tag 87 and female 133/tag 33 have been seen checking out their old nest cave far below Grandeur Point. I'll be rooting especially for another nesting success from this pair, which tend to be seen a lot around Grand Canyon Village.

Eddie expects to put out an update of his own in the next week or so on The Peregrine Fund web site. If you've bookmarked the site and it still takes you to the May 10 Notes, then you missed his October 26 update in a new format. Go to www.peregrinefund.org and click on "Notes From the Field," then on "California Condor Recovery Project."

Until next time,


Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 

Dec. 17, 2010 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

I’ve revised the condor tag chart due to some recent changes. You may download it here: December 17, 2010 Condor Tag Chart (100kb pdf file)

Specifically:
Two new birds were released on November 26 . Both are one-year-olds: male 520/J2 from the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and female 537/J7 from the Los Angeles Zoo. Also, the four birds missing since last winter or spring have been given up for dead. Those birds were 4-year-old females 404/E0, 414/E1 and 426/E6, and 3-year-old male 454/F4. All were captive-bred birds.

Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of November 30, 2010:

Total Population: 373
Captive (counting birds in temporary captivity): 176
Wild: 197
In California: 104
In Baja: 19
In AZ/UT: 74

Arizona condor news, from Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund:

Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund reports that condors are being trapped in the baited release pen at Vermilion Cliffs, as they come down from the high country when snow covers gut piles and carcasses. This trapping occurs every year to test the birds for lead poisoning at the end of deer and elk-hunting season. A number of the birds trapped thus far have shown elevated lead levels and are being or have been treated by chelation (shots of a calcium compound that binds and removes the lead, usually twice a day for a week).

As the weather worsens, many condors are rediscovering the low, south-facing cliffs and proffered carcasses around the Vermilion Cliffs release site. Others are still finding food on the North Kaibab National Forest, in the western portions of Grand Canyon, and in Utah. There have also been a few recent condor sightings at the South Rim and in Zion National Park. For those who really want to see a condor, in winter the Navajo Bridge on route 89A is one of the more likely spots to search, being low elevation and not far from the release site, and offering relatively close-up views. Of course people should always stay at least 150 feet away from condors, and report to The Peregrine Fund any condors that display a lack of caution toward humans.

National news:

The New York Times published this editorial, called "Get the Lead Out of Hunting," on December 15: www.nytimes.com/2010/12/16/opinion/16prieto.html?_r=2&ref=opinion

Until next time,

Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 

Oct 29, 2010 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts—

Lots of condor news to report, good, bad & neutral.

You may download the Condor Tag Chart (102 kb PDF file - updated October 28, 2010)

Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of September 30, 2010:

Total Population: 381

Captive (counting birds in temporary captivity): 189

Wild: 192
In California: 94 (including 3 chicks)
In Baja: 22 (including 2 chicks)
In AZ/UT: 76 (including one chick, now fledged)

Arizona condor news, from Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund:

Sadly, 11-year-old breeding female 195 was found dead on September 18 next to highway 89A, north of Jacob Lake. She had several broken bones and had been seen feeding on road-killed carcasses in the past, so it is suspected that she was hit by a car. She and male 158 have had 4 failed nesting attempts over this past 4 years. To lose yet another breeding female is a great loss for the recovery program in Arizona. I count 14 females in the wild here aged 6 or more (that is, of potential breeding age), compared to 30 males. There are 11 males aged 8 to 11 who still have not mated (now competing with male 158), but there are no unpaired females above age 7. Condors typically take their first shot at breeding somewhere around age 6 to 8, so of course the good news is that the total number of wild birds of breeding age is rising year by year. In fact our oldest wild-raised bird, 350M/-0, is 6 years old and could breed in the next few years, although of course he faces a lot of competition for mates.

Also there are 4 birds--all captive-bred 3- and 4-year-olds--that have not been seen since spring or earlier. For now they're still counted among the 76 wild birds in Arizona/Utah, but they may eventually have to be presumed dead.

On a brighter note, 3 condors were released for the first time on September 25, and a fourth was re-released after having been in the wild for just a few days last spring. All are doing well. Two more birds may be released the first week of November, though it won't be a big public release like September 25. In other years the big public release was always in the spring, but high winds were often a problem, causing newly released youngsters to want to roost on the ground where they were vulnerable to coyote predation. Also, when they started branching out and taking longer flights from the release site they often ran into territorial breeding birds who drove them right back again. Fall releases bear some risk of the more far-ranging of the newly released birds finding carcasses with lead in them, but overall appears to be the better option.

Hunting seasons for deer and elk are in full swing, always a dangerous time for condors. Already this season, condors are known to have fed on carcasses or gut piles containing lead. The Peregrine Fund biologists will start trapping condors to test for lead poisoning once the birds start to show up back at the release site. But for now the condors that may have been exposed to lead are still finding lots of food up in Utah and on the North Kaibab, so it's a matter of waiting until snow covers those carcasses and drives the birds back to the Vermilion Cliffs.

Use of lead ammunition, instead of alternatives made of copper or other materials, is hazardous not only to California condors but also to other wildlife such as bald eagles, and to human health when we eat venison. In fact the health or natural resource departments of North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota have all come out with recommendations that pregnant women and children under age 6 should avoid eating wild game killed with lead ammunition. One of the best articles I've read on the subject is John Moir's "Condors in a Coal Mine," published in the September 2008 issue of the Smithsonian:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/wildlife/condors-coal-mine.html

Although the majority of this population of condors are up in Utah and on the Kaibab Plateau dining on venison, others are gathering near the Bright Angel trail below Indian Garden. Xanterra lost a pack mule in that area this week; bad news for the mule but a good clean food source for California condors.

The Vermilion Cliffs chick has new status and a new name! It is no longer a chick but a fledgeling, having left its nest cave on October 20 for the first time. So far it's experimenting with short flights close to home, and of course is still depending entirely on its parents for food. It has been given studbook number 558. Since condor 158M is wearing tag 58 already, the youngster will eventually get tagged with something like K8 or K5. (Birds hatched in 2008 got tag numbers like H6. Birds hatched in 2009 got numbers like J6, the letter "I" having been skipped due to potential confusion with the number "1." So the "K" series is next, for birds hatched in 2010.)

Having made several backpacking trips into the Tapeats Creek region of Grand Canyon, biologists never did find a condor nest cave there. It is assumed that female 210 and male 122 failed in their nesting attempt this year, as did all but one of the six pairs that had active nests at one point this spring. Still, that's five pairs (minus female 195) who have had a little more experience for a new attempt at breeding in 2011.

Until next time,

Marker
Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 


May 15, 2010 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts—

Arizona/Utah news:

--Eddie Feltes has updated his Notes From the Field at www.peregrinefund.org as of May 5, with all the scoop on this spring’s nesting plus several great photos. Here’s one interesting tidbit:

The 5th confirmed nesting is that of a trio involving condors 241F, 193M, and 243M. These two males have been jostling for position to possess sole breeding rights to female 241 over the past few years, and based on observation, we believed 193M had finally succeeded, as the pair began incubating 241’s first documented egg on 2-April-2010 in a small canyon on the east Kaibab Plateau. Then just a few weeks into the incubation cycle, 243M was permitted to incubate the egg, and all three have been sharing duties ever since. We are expecting this attempt to end up unsuccessful, but we are presently waiting and observing to document the outcome.

--Eddie mentions a total of six nesting attempts in Arizona this spring, including two failures (one on the North Kaibab and one in the Marble Canyon portion of Grand Canyon). Besides the nest on the east side of the Kaibab mentioned above, the other three still-active nests are:

· 114M/none [that’s Studbook# Sex/tag#] and 126F/26 in their usual nest cave in the Vermilion Cliffs. This suspected egg most likely hatched about April 12.

· 162M/62 and 296F/-6 in another nest cave in theVermilion Cliffs area. This suspected egg was expected to hatch about May 6.

· 122M/22 and 210F/10 in the Tapeats Creek area, about 45 miles downstream of Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon. This pair nested in the same area last year but their chick apparently never fledged. They appear to have laid around March 26.

--Not counting any possible chicks, the number of wild condors in AZ/UT remains at 72. 14-year-old breeding bird 133F/33 was re-released April 24 after treatment at the Phoenix Zoo for severe lead poisoning. (She immediately rejoined her mate, 187M/87, but it’s probably too late for them to breed this year.) But balancing that gain, one of the two young birds released for the first time in early March has been returned to the flight pen for another six months. She tended to avoid the high springtime winds by roosting on flat ground, which put her in danger of predation.

Other Condor News:

--In the Sierra San Pedro Mártir of Baja California, Mexico, as of May 7 biologists had confirmed one chick and suspect one more. Perhaps this will be the year the program in Mexico gets its first wild fledgling.

--A chick hatched March 24 in a cave in Pinnacles National Monument. This is the first condor chick to hatch in the Monument in over 100 years. The original egg laid there the first week of March by wild condors turned out to be non-viable, but it was replaced with a dummy egg and then with a soon-to-hatch egg from the San Diego Wild Animal Park. This will give that wild condor pair experience in raising young, and if all goes well it means that one more California condor will be raised in the wild instead of in captivity.

The full story and a photo of the pipping egg may be found at:

http://www.nps.gov/pinn/parknews/first-condor-chick-hatches-at-pinnacles-national-monument-in-over-100-years.htm

Pinnacles National Monument put out a press release on May 13, regarding the condor chick there, which I have mentioned above. Sadly, both the chick at Pinnacles and its male parent have been found to have high blood lead levels and have been taken to the L.A. Zoo for chelation. Biologists are trying to trap the female parent to determine if she also has lead poisoning.

For more details, here's the link to the news release on Pinnacles National Monument's web site:

http://www.nps.gov/pinn/parknews/condor-chick-evacuated.htm


--The condor crew at the Ventana Wildlife Society report 5 condor nests in the Big Sur area this spring, 3 of them still active as of the end of April.
The central coast of California is the only area where condors today commonly feed on marine mammals. This creates an issue we don’t have here in Arizona/Utah, as described in their March Notes from the Field, in reference to one of their wild nests:

Their own egg was replaced by our Senior Wildlife Biologist, Joe Burnett, because of the unlikelihood that their natural egg would be successful due to possible eggshell thinning from DDE, a common contaminant that is likely accumulating in condors that feed on marine mammal carcasses. Although this is a problem now, we are hopeful that this issue will no longer be a problem in the near future and the condor will be able to make as good of a comeback as the Brown Pelican and Bald Eagle did, which both faced this same eggshell thinning problems in the past.

There has also been a problem in California with condor chicks being fed trash items by their parents. Biologists are trying to mitigate this by a combination of making bone fragments available as a safe calcium source, organizing volunteers for trash pick-up in areas frequented by condors, and spreading out the proffered carcasses to encourage the condors to forage more widely and spend less time finding trash. It’s thought that condor parents in California may have fed trash such as bottle caps to their growing chicks while seeking calcium needed to produce condor bones, in the same way that breeding females in Arizona have themselves ingested coins, possibly seeking calcium needed to produce eggs. In Arizona too an effort has been made to remove coins from places like Mather Point at Grand Canyon, and bone fragments are scattered about near the release site at Vermilion Cliffs. But the condors here have always tended to range widely in search of non-proffered carcasses, and have not lost any chicks that we know of to the ingestion of trash.

--The biologists in central California also report that they continue to find elevated lead levels in condors, despite the ban on hunting big game with lead ammunition that went into effect in that area July of 2008. Clearly with or without a lead ban, hunter education and incentives remain key to making the switch to non-lead ammunition.

--One can follow the Ventana Wildlife Society’s Notes From the Field at http://www.ventanaws.org/species_condors_fieldnotes/.

--Southern California reported their first wild egg of the season as laid on February 10, four days before our first egg in Arizona. They were expecting about five to seven nests this year, but I haven’t heard any recent update.

Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of April 30, 2010:

World Total: 366

Wild: 186

--CA: 95

--Baja Califonia: 18

--AZ/UT: 73 (counting one chick, probably the one due to have hatched May 12 at Vermilion Cliffs)

Captive: 180 (counting birds that are just temporarily in captivity)

Besides the Arizona chick, this includes five other wild chicks thus far:

--Baja California, Mexico: 1

--Big Sur area in central California: 1


--Pinnacles National Monument (since taken to the L.A. Zoo to be treated for lead poisoning): 1


--Southern California: 2.

Also 18 captive-bred chicks.

Jesse Grantham of the USFWS also mentioned that May 14, 2010 is the 30th birthday of Condor AC-9, the last wild condor captured back in 1987. He's been doing well back in the wild since he was released on May 1, 2002, and he has successfully fledged more than one wild chick.

Of course at age 30, AC-9 is a still pretty young compared to the oldest California condor today. Topa Topa, in captivity at the L.A. Zoo since his capture as a chick back in 1966, turned 44 in January. He sired a chick just last year, at 43. (I haven't heard about this year yet.) So did the oldest female, AC-9's mother Tama. To have had AC-9 29 years before, Tama must have been at least 34 years old when she raised her chick last year at the Oregon Zoo, and 35 now. (Again, I don't know if she laid this year or not.)

Until I have more news to share.

--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall

Park Ranger--Interpretation

Grand Canyon National Park

 


Mar. 19, 2010 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

I'm back from my winter "furlough" and of course have lots of condor news since my last update in November. Unfortunately, some of it is quite sad.

Arizona/Utah News:

The AZ/UT population lost at least four condors this winter, one to coyote predation and three to lead poisoning. Two of the lead poisoning fatalities were birds that were well known and loved around the South Rim: Condor 127F/27, a nearly-15-year-old female who'd successfully fledged three chicks over the years from her nest with 123M/23 in the Salt Creek drainage below the Hermit Road, and her chick from two years ago, 472F/H2. 329M/29, a nearly-six-year-old male, was the third lead fatality. And nearly-2-year-old female 485F/85, a bird released from captivity for the first time in November, died around February 1 of predation.

On top of all that, both last year's Tapeats Creek chick, #527, and now also the Vermilion Cliffs fledgling, #515, are missing and presumed dead. And 133F/33, who raised a chick below Grandeur Point with her mate 187M/87 two years ago, is currently at the Phoenix Zoo being treated for lead poisoning by veterinarian Dr. Kathy Orr. Fortunately, 133 is showing signs of recovery.

Condor 413M/13, who went to the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise last year for treatment of a beak injury, is still being held there as a mentor bird. He is expected to return to Arizona in May along with the next cohort of birds to be released here.

Assuming the death of #515 and 527, and not counting #133 or 413, that leaves us with 72 free-flying condors in the Arizona/Utah area, not to mention three youngsters waiting in the flight pen at Vermilion Cliffs for their first release into the wild.

We also have two eggs in Arizona! Veteran pair 114M/no tag and 126F/26 laid an egg in their usual Vermilion Cliffs cave on Valentine's Day, February 14. And a new pair is suspected to have laid an egg in another Vermilion Cliffs cave on March 10. This is 13-year-old male 162M/62, who lost his former mate to zinc poisoning in 2008, and 7-year-old female 296F/-6, a first-time breeder.

More eggs are expected in the next few weeks. Even recently "widowed" 123M/23 and temporarily-abandoned 187M/87 have been seen courting again--both the same female, 316F/16!

Eddie Feltes reports that condors are now flying back and forth regularly between the release site at Vermilion Cliffs and the North Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon's south rim, the Colorado River corridor of Marble Canyon, and Zion National Park. Here on the South Rim someone sees condors somewhere most days, although the birds have been conspicuously absent at the daily 3 p.m. Condor Talks by Lookout Studio. Apparently the snow-covered rock outcrops below north-facing cliffs at 7,000 feet leave something to be desired as overnight roosts at this time of year!

Links to The Peregrine Fund web site for more information:

The Peregrine Fund's press release about the lead fatalities this winter and steps being taken to prevent future deaths may be found at:

http://home.nps.gov/applications/redirect/?sUrl=http://www.peregrinefund.org/press_full.asp?id=173&category=California%20Condor

And Eddie Feltes' latest Notes From the Field, dated March 1, 2010, is at:

http://home.nps.gov/applications/redirect/?sUrl=http://www.peregrinefund.org/notes_category.asp?category=California%20Condor%20Releases%20in%20Arizona

Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of February 28, 2010:

(These numbers do not reflect the suspected death of last year's two Arizona chicks, #527 & 515, or the release of two young captive-bred birds at Vermilion Cliffs on March 6, or 133F/33's current treatment at the Phoenix Zoo.)

Total Population: 347

Captive: 163

Wild: 184

In California: 94

In Baja: 17

In AZ/UT: 73 (now 72 counting all the above adjustments)

--News from California:

Pinnacles National Monument recently announced the first condor nest within current park boundaries in over 100 years! An egg was laid there the first week of March. For more information and a photo of male 318 on his nest, go to this link:

http://www.nps.gov/pinn/parknews/first-condor-nest-at-pinnacles-national-monument-in-over-100-years.htm

San Diego Wild Animal Park reported their first two eggs of the season on January 25. Southern California reported that their first egg of the season (and probably THE first wild egg of the season?) was laid around February 10 in southern California, just four days before our first egg here in Arizona.

--The latest Condor Chart by Tag Number:

Condorchart March 19, 2010
(161 MB PDF File)

I saw my first turkey vulture of the season today; spring must arriving. Happy spring to you all!

--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park


 

Nov. 14, 2009 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

Here's the latest condor news that I'm aware of. Highlights in bold as usual. I've also attached the latest condor chart for the AZ/UT birds, which includes two condors released on November 2 and four other birds, listed on a third page, that will probably be released in February or March..

Condor Tag Chart as of November 14, 2009 (240 kb PDF file)

Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of August 31

(These are the most recent available, and do not reflect recent releases at Pinnacles and at Vermilion Cliffs, the death of the Baja chick, and who knows what else?):

Total Population: 356

Captive: 171

Wild: 185

In California: 92 (counting 2 birds temporarily in captivity)

In Baja: 17 (counting one bird temporarily at the SDWAP, and a chick that has since died)

In AZ/UT: 76 (counting one bird in Boise being treated for a bill injury and two chicks)

Since August 31, there have been some changes to Arizona/Utah condor numbers.

--413M/tag 13 is still at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, although he’s now considered cured of his bill injury and is awaiting transport back to Arizona.

--Two new one-year-olds raised at the World Center for Birds of Prey were released at Vermilion Cliffs on November 2, and are doing well in the wild thus far: 466M/tag H4 and 485F/tag 85.

--Sadly, we may have lost the Tapeats Creek chick, 527 (offspring of 210F/tag 10 and 122M/tag 22). Eddie Feltes has this to say on the topic in his most recent "Notes from the Field," at www.peregrinefund.org:

Over the past two months we have made three different trips backpacking down to the nest cave observation site of Condors 210F and 122M, in hopes of getting some observations of chick 527, but all three trips have turned up nothing. We are certain that if still alive, the chick is no longer in the nest cave, and if fledged, the bird is not in the immediate vicinity of the nest cave wall. These factors alone left a concerned outlook on Condor 527’s fate, but I still did not rule out the fledging of the chick to another nearby location, as both parent birds were still hanging out in the area during all of our trips.

Grand Canyon Park biologist Rosa Palarino made another trip down to get some observations, and Rosa did not receive one signal from either parent bird during her four-day trip. And in following the movements of both Condors 122M and 210F, we are certain that both birds stayed in Utah for eight days straight together last week, making any hopes of Condor 527 still being alive fade drastically.

I asked Eddie if it’s time to take this chick off the condor chart, and he responded that he’s not ready to give up all hope yet. Although both parents roosted nightly in Utah for so many consecutive nights, it’s still possible that they might have done a stealth day trip or two to the Grand Canyon during that time to feed their chick. Keep your fingers crossed!

So adding in the two new releases, optimistically counting both chicks as alive, but discounting 413M way off there in Boise, that now gives us "about 77" wild condors in the AZ/UT area by my count.

Other Arizona/Utah news:

One of this year’s chicks is no longer technically a chick! The Vermilion Cliffs chick has been out of its nest for about a month, but until this week was staying close enough to have gotten there by hop/flapping. On November 11 this chick had relocated to a ledge considerably below its nest cave, to which location it must have flown (at least enough to break its fall!). So condor 515 is now officially considered a fledgling.

A Note on Condor Tag Numbers in AZ/UT:

So how did Condor 466M wind up with the tag H4? Well, the number 66 had already been taken by Condor 266M. The current system being used in Arizona is that each year’s condor cohort gets a letter (if needed) that goes up from year to year. Condors hatched in 2007 got F’s. G is being skipped because it looks too much like a C or a 0, just as B was skipped because it might be mistaken for an 8. So birds hatched in 2008 get the letter H. But H6 was already taken by Condor 476M, so 466 had to settle for tag H4.

News regarding this year’s chicks in California and Mexico:

All seven remaining (as of August 31) condor chicks in the wild in California either have fledged or were expected to have fledged by this time, but I’m not up-to-date on whether they are all still alive and did actually fledge.

We’re still waiting for September and October stats to be published, although at least for the condors in the Big Sur area there are field notes available at http://www.ventanaws.org/species_condors_fieldnotes/

The successful fledging of two of the Big Sur chicks from their redwood tree cavity nests in September is described there.

Unfortunately, the only Baja chick was found dead below its nest cave on October 22, just when fledging was expected any day. Cause of death is not yet known.

--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023


 

July 18, 2009 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

Here's the latest condor news that I'm aware of. Highlights in bold as usual. I've also attached the latest condor tag chart for the AZ/UT birds, although changes since June are fairly minor.

Condor Tag Chart as of July 18, 2009 (100kb PDF file)

Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of June 30:

Total Population: 362

Captive: 169

Wild: 193

In California: 101 (counting 6 birds temporarily in captivity, and including 9 chicks)

In Baja: 16 (including one chick)

In AZ/UT: 76 (counting one bird in Boise being treated for a bill injury and two chicks)

362 will certainly prove the high for the year, now that hatching season is past. In fact, there have already been two fatalities on wild condors in California since June 30. One died of unknown cause (awaiting necropsy results) and one was found dead, tangled in climbing ropes in a popular climbing area west of the Hopper refuge.

Arizona/Utah news:

Since my update of June 13, the second of the two fledglings from last year was captured at Vermilion Cliffs, and given tag H2 on the left wing only. She was captured together with her momma, #127 to make sure it was not too traumatic an experience. 476M/H6 had already been captured together with his poppa, #187. Notice I say "her" and "his": DNA results have come back for our local condor fledglings of 2007 and 2008. All are male except for the Salt Creek chick 2008, #472F/H2.

Although no one has yet seen this year's Tapeats Creek chick, there is no doubt this chick exists and in fact he or she has been given studbook number 527. The Vermilion Cliffs chick is seen every day, visible in the mouth of its cave, and now has the number 515. (It's a lower number because this chick is thought to have hatched on 4/18/09, as opposed to 5/7/09 for the Tapeats chick.) 527's parents, 210F/10 and 122M/22 are using a different cave this year from the one 210 used in 2007, but in the same part of Grand Canyon.

I spoke to Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund yesterday about the smaller number of condors around the South Rim this summer compared to previous summers. He says it's because the trend of more and more condors spending more and more time up in southwest Utah is continuing. They're mostly on private and some public lands above the Kolob Canyon part of Zion National Park. They're also seen fairly often around Angel's Landing in the main part of Zion.

Eddie gave three reasons for this trend. Foremost is that the condors are finding a ton of food up there. There are huge herds of domestic sheep which are prone to enough mortalities to often provide more food than the condors can eat. They also find deer, elk, cattle & the occasional horse carcass. In addition, there are higher elevations than the South Rim offers, popular in the heat of summer. And finally, this year unlike last year, there are no condor nests in the vicinity of Grand Canyon Village to draw other birds along with the nesting parents. Last year the four breeding adults in this area would tend to be accompanied back from Vermilion Cliffs or wherever with other condors. But this year there are no nests in this area, and now that last year's chicks are roaming far afield they and their parents aren't so attached to this area anymore either (although they certainly were up to a month or so ago).

Eddie also mentioned that 6 young condors out of the captive breeding program have arrived in Arizona and are being held at Vermilion Cliffs for future release there. The soonest any of them are likely to be released would be October and tag numbers have not yet been determined, so I've left them off the chart for now. One bird is a two-year-old; the rest hatched in 2008. One is from the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon; two are from the San Diego Wild Animal Park; three are from the World Center for Birds of Prey run by The Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho.

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 

June 13, 2009 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello condor enthusiasts--

Sorry I haven't gotten out an update to some of you since April 1! There's been a lot of news since then, and many additions and deletions to the Condor Chart of March 24. As usual, for a short version just read what's in bold.

Download CA Condor Chart as of June 13, 2009 (100kb PDF File)


World Population Numbers from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as of May 31:

World Total: 358

Captive Population (not counting temporary recaptures): 166

Wild Population (counting temporarily recaptured birds): 192

In California: 98 (counting one chick which later died)

In Baja California, Mexico: 15 (not including a chick which was found since May 31)

In Arizona: 79.This counts our two wild chicks although one has not yet been visually confirmed. But it also counts three birds that have since been captured and are being permanently returned to captivity in Boise due to repeated behavioral issues. Our actual tally of wild condors in Arizona as of June 13 is 74 (counting one bird temporarily healing from a beak injury in Boise) plus two chicks (one confirmed, one suspected).

The California tally of 98 wild birds included nine chicks as of May 31, one of which has since apparently been eaten by a black bear. Interestingly, of the nine California chicks, four came from about-to-hatch ("pipping") eggs transferred from the captive breeding program into wild condor nests. Each egg replaced a dummy egg which had previously replaced the wild birds' own egg which had proved infertile, dead, or not properly incubated. Nest caves (and nest cavities in redwood trees) in California tend to be at least somewhat more accessible than ours in Arizona, and for this and other reasons, the program there is much more hands-on.

The nest swaps are done to give as many condors as possible the opportunity to be raised in the wild rather than in captivity, and to give the wild condors experience in raising chicks. Now that condor numbers have increased so much since the population low of 22 birds in 1982, the emphasis of the captive breeding program has shifted to quality rather than quantity. This means it's rare today that condor hand puppets are used to raise condor chicks in captivity. Nearly all young condors are either reared by foster parents in or out of captivity, or by their own parents. Wild chicks in California and Mexico are also closely monitored, and when possible each chick is vaccinated for West Nile Virus before it takes its first flight.

Here in Arizona each confirmed wild chick has made it to fledging successfully, so there seems to be less need to interfere. So our young wild birds don't get tagged or vaccinated until they follow one of their elders up to Vermilion Cliffs and get captured in the release pen there, many months after fledging.

Arizona news:

At one point this spring we had five active nests in Arizona: two in the Vermilion Cliffs, one in Marble Canyon, one below Buddha Temple, and one in the Deer Creek area about 45 miles downstream of Grand Canyon Village. Three nests have failed; two remain active with confirmed or suspected chicks. A chick has been seen in the nest cave of experienced breeders 114M/no tag and 126F/26 in the Vermilion Cliffs. Also, based on the behavior of condors 122M/22 and 210F/10 in the Deer Creek area, their as-yet-unseen chick seems to be doing well too. For more details, check out The Peregrine Fund's May 29 Notes From the Field at:

http://www.peregrinefund.org/notes_category.asp?category=California%20Condor%20Releases%20in%20Arizona

Also as reported in the May 29 Notes From the Field, condor 404F/E0, who was left off the March 24 condor chart since she'd been missing all winter, turned up alive and well! It's a good sign that even during the winter months a wild condor can find enough food to thrive without resorting to the proffered carcasses at Vermilion Cliffs.

I reported on April 1 that newly-released condor 372F/C2 had been killed by a coyote when she left her safe overnight perch during a night of bad weather. Since then all remaining captive-bred youngsters from the flight pen at Vermilion Cliffs have been released into the wild. Unfortunately one of these, four-year-old female 391/C9, was killed by a coyote too in early May.She'd flown some distance from the Cliffs and been grounded by high winds. Biologists camped nearby for her protection, but she apparently walked away from them during the night and became vulnerable to coyote predation. Another of these birds, 413M/13, injured his beak and is recovering well in temporary captivity in Boise, Idaho at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey. (Actually I'm unclear on whether 413 was ever released or if he hurt his beak while still in captivity, but he's expected to be released or re-released in Arizona soon after his return from Boise, so I'm counting him as part of the wild population.)

Condor 134M/tagless, who has not been seen since hunting season last fall, is now officially presumed dead. Likewise seven-year-old male 276/6, so I've now removed him from the chart.

Condor numbers below Grand Canyon Village are lower than they have been in past years, probably because the water pipeline below the rim there has been repaired and no longer offers a free drink or shower. Still a few condors often do roost in that area overnight and occasionally by day, so it remains a good place to look for condors, especially late in the afternoon or early in the morning. Condor talks take place daily at Lookout Studio at 3:30 p.m. On the North Rim they take place daily at 4:00 p.m. on the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge.

Last year's two fledglings, 472 and 476, are frequently seen along with their parents below Grand Canyon Village. 476 (from last year's Grandeur Point nest) has been caught and is now wearing tag H6. When 472 (from last year's Salt Creek nest) has shown up at Vermilion Cliffs a few times and is captured in the release pen there, he or she will probably be given tag H2.

Condors 327F/A7, 378F/78 and 380M/C0, after repeatedly being recaptured for behavioral reasons, are all being sent back to captivity in Boise. Two of them may become display birds there at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey.

California and Mexico condor news:

The hard-core condor enthusiasts among you may be interested in this link to a Condor Blog which includes photos of this year's Baja chick at approximately 45 days, when it was vaccinated for West Nile Virus:

http://cacondorconservation.org/content/blog/2009/06/

Likewise here's a link to the Ventana Wildlife Society's "Notes From the Field" for the Big Sur area. It details what became of their two wild condors that were found early this spring to be suffering from BOTH lead poisoning AND having been shot with a shotgun. (One bird has been successfully returned to the wild; the other died recently at the L.A. Zoo despite the best efforts of veterinarians there.)

http://www.ventanaws.org/species_condors_fieldnotes/

--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 


Mar. 14, 2009 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

Here is the most recent Condor Tag Chart
(151KB PDF File)
As of 3/24/09 -- 72 wild condors in this area

From the Peregrine Fund's web site, http://www.peregrinefund.org:

On March 12 Field Manager Eddie Feltes posted a new "Notes from the Field" at: http://www.peregrinefund.org/notes_category.asp?category=California%20Condor%20Releases%20in%20Arizona

For those who don't have time to read the whole article, the gist is as follows, with the most important information in blue:

--Nearly-13-year-old male #134/tag 34 is missing and presumed dead. His former mate, female #210/tag 10 has paired up with male #122/tag 22 who previously lost his mate, female #119. They seem to be incubating an egg in the same area and perhaps the same cave that 210 & 134 used in 2007, in the vicinity of Tapeats Creek, 40-some miles downstream of Phantom Ranch.

--Nearly-3-year-old female #404/tag E0 is also missing and presumed dead.

--4 eggs are believed to have been laid in Arizona as of March 12. One was Marble Canyon by #253F/tag 53 and #223M/tag 3; this egg has been broken but the pair could possibly lay again. The other 3 eggs have not been visually confirmed, but are strongly suspected by the behavior of the mated pairs. Besides the Tapeats Creek nest, this includes two nests in the Vermilion Cliffs. One is the previously successful breeding pair of male #114/no tag and female #126/tag 26, using the same cave they've used before. The other is the same pair that failed in their nesting attempt in the same area but a different cave last year, male #158/no tag and female #195/tag 95.


From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's monthly California Condor Status Report:

The following numbers are adjusted to include previously released birds now being held in temporary captivity, and to reflect the presumed death of condors 134 & 404.

California condor numbers as of Feb 28, 2009:

World Total: 319
In California: 90
In Baja: 18
In AZ/UT:
69 on Feb 28, plus four more birds released on March 7 makes 73 since the March 7 release.
In Captivity (including 6 young condors in the flight pen at Vermilion Cliffs awaiting their first release): 138 since the March 7 release.


Around the South Rim:

Condor Talks are taking place daily once again, meeting at Lookout Studio at 3:30 p.m. Condors are sometimes being seen either during or after the program, but no guarantees! There do seem to be condor sightings reported from the south rim or the South Kaibab, Bright Angel, or Plateau Point trails just about every day, but the birds don't always make it to the program.

--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 

Dec. 10, 2008 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Hello Condor Enthusiasts--

Condor numbers have changed since my Condor Update of Nov 29.

Unfortunately, there have been three fatalities reported since then. One is an Arizona bird, 3-year-old #384M/tag 84. He was killed by a coyote near the release site at Vermilion Cliffs. This was the first instance of coyote predation in our birds since 2002. The other fatalities were of a condor temporarily in captivity in Baja and another in captivity in Boise.

So cross out Tag 84 from your condor charts. Unless there is other bad news that has not yet been reported, that makes current numbers as of today (including temporarily captive birds as wild):

World Total: 324
In California: 87
In Baja: 19
In AZ/UT:
68


Two recent news articles relate to the lead issue:

1. California's ban on hunting large game with lead ammunition in condor country has now been expanded to include non-game species. For more details, see this L.A. Times article at

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-me-condors4-2008dec04,0,1706424.story

2. The other item regards a small study of blood samples taken from grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, indicating that their blood lead levels tend to become elevated during hunting season. It is not known whether the raised lead levels have affected the health or development of the grizzlies in any way. The article can be found at

http://www.jacksonholenews.com/print.php?art_id=3892&pid=news



Regarding the Grand Canyon fledglings and other Arizona/Utah birds:

Both fledglings continue well as of their last sightings. Their parents are seen from time to time flying below or occasionally above the south rim, but the rest of the condors are spending their time mostly on the North Kaibab National Forest, up in southern Utah, or around the release site at Vermilion Cliffs. Eddie Feltes reports that The Peregrine Fund biologists have been trapping condors at the release site lately and testing them for lead. A number of condors have tested high for lead and been held for a week of chelation (two shots per day with a calcium compound that bonds with the lead and gets it out of their system). The rest, depending on their lead levels, were re-released immediately or the next day.

By the way, "fledgling" is defined in The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds as "a young bird that has recently left the nest; is feathered; and still depends on its parent for food. It is a fledgling from the time it leaves the nest until it is independent of all parental care (Berger, 1961)." By that definition, these two Grand Canyon youngsters will be classified as fledglings throughout this winter and probably well into 2009. Fledglings from the nest cave in the Vermilion Cliffs have become independent of their parents much faster thanks to their proximity to the dairy calf carcasses provided every few days near the release site. But that nest produced no chicks this year.



Have a great holiday and winter! I'll be back February 25; until then contact Ranger Pat Brown with any questions, and follow condor news as desired at The Peregrine Fund's
"Notes from the Field."

--Marker

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger--Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 


Nov. 29, 2008 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Fellow Condor Enthusiasts

Sorry this is both rather late and long! All information is up-to-date as of November 12, 2008; it's taken me a while to revise the chart and get this out! For skimming the information below, I've put key info in bold.

California Condors in the Wild in AZ/UT by Tag # 2008-11-12
(108kb PDF File)


Condor Population Stats:

The California condor population stats from the USFWS as of October 31 are out, as follows (including birds temporarily in captivity):

World Total: 327

In California: 87
In Baja: 20

In AZ/UT:
67 (69 since the release on 11/7/08)
This includes #327F/tag A7, who is still on time out at Vermilion Cliffs)


Grand Canyon National Park Condor News:

Both of this year's wild chicks in Arizona have fledged! The Grandeur Point chick (now officially #476) of 133F and 187M was seen 60 meters below its nest cave in the Redwall Limestone on September 24. Since then it's been seen making short flights in that area. The Salt Creek chick (now known as #472, offspring of 127F/tag 27 and 123M/tag 23) was seen below its nest cave on October 16, also taking short flights. This fledgling is the younger sibling both of #305 (deceased and hanging in the Visitor Center at Canyon View Information Plaza) and #392M/tag 92, doing well in the wild. This brings us to 8 free-flying condors that were raised in the wild here in northern Arizona.

Read the December 4, 2008 news release from the Southwest Condor Working Group:
Two More California Condor Chicks Flying Free at Grand Canyon (86kb PDF File)



The 69 AZ/UT birds includes two that were released for the first time on September 11: 383F/tag 83 and 384M/tag 84, both raised at the Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Also two more released on November 7: 409F/tag 9 and 414F/tag E1, both raised at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Not a lot of condor sightings from the rims lately, and the regular Condor Talks have finished until March 1. Condors are sometimes being seen in park, mainly by inner-canyon hikers. The majority of the population, as is usual at this time of year, have been up on the North Kaibab National Forest and in southern Utah. Its hunting season! Once snow covers the gut piles, the condors will start congregating around the Vermilion Cliffs.

Progress on the Coin Issue:

There has been progress on the problem of people tossing coins from stairways such as the ones at Mather Point. This is a condor issue since pennies are almost 98% zinc and we've now lost one for sure [281F this spring] and quite likely two [136F last spring] breeding-age female condors due to zinc poisoning from coins. (Of course we do not know where the condors actually picked up those coins.)

On September 27, National Public Lands Day, three rescue teams volunteered their time to the project under a Special Use Permit: the Arizona Mountaineering Club, the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association, and the Southern Arizona Rescue Association. Some of these folks come annually to pick up trash below the rim. This year they made a special effort to collect coins from below Mather Point, along with coins and trash below Lookout Studio and Grand Canyon Village generally.

The result was about 7 gallons of coins retrieved, totalling 28,010 coins from 22 countries plus the European Union, valued at $580.95! This includes all the most obvious coins on the rocky outcrops as well as considerable headway toward removing the large numbers of coins at the bottom of the cliffs. It was an impressive day-and-a-half-long effort, for which park staff and condor enthusiasts everywhere owe them a big thanks!

Clearly one weekend a year is not sufficient to keep on top of the coin problem, or the trash below the rim either. In fact the group did not have time to attack the area around the stairway by Yavapai Point (another problem area) at all. Todd Nelson, the park's Volunteer Coordinator is looking into getting together equipment for a group of people already skilled in climbing and technical rescue who might be willing to go below the rim on a monthly or bimonthly basis to keep on top of the coin problem. If you have the skills and are interested, please contact him.

We also now have 14 small "Coins Can Kill" signs ready to be mounted on railings down the stairways at Mather Point, Yavapai Point, and Lookout Studio, and a couple of sandwich boards with the same graphics already located at the top of both stairways at Mather Point.


Excellent article on lead in venison, its effects on condors and possibly on people:

Check out this link to a great article by John Moir:

John Moir is also the author of the very readable, highly recommended book Return of the Condor: The Race to Save Our Largest Bird From Extinction.


More recent news on lead ammunition:

The following "Blood Lead Level Study Results" fact sheet is from a North Dakota Department of Health web site. It explains their recent, controversial recommendation that pregnant women and children under age 6 should avoid eating wild game killed with lead bullets:


For Hunters:

For anyone still debating a switch to copper bullets, the following video on Lead Bullets vs. Non-lead Bullets is from Pinnacles National Monument, and is quite persuasive. In this video, Wildlife Biologist, Jim Petterson, and a group of other hunters compare the performance of lead and non-lead bullets. He also discusses the potential impacts of lead bullet fragmentation on wildlife and humans.

http://www.nps.gov/grca/naturescience/bullet_study.htm



News and information from California:

I've been asked on occasion what to call a group of condors, and are condors territorial?
Here are some answers from condor biologist Jessica Koning as posted in the Ventana Wildlife Society's Notes From the Field, September 2008.

As Interns join the Condor Recovery effort, they come to see every condor as an individual. With just over 300 condors in the world and only 40 condors in the wild here in Monterey County, it is impossible to observe these birds every day and not notice that each condor marches to their own drummer. Collectively, condors live life at a relaxed pace. They spend most of their time idling in treetops, or riding gentle updrafts in slow circles in friendly groups of around 8 individuals. Since they are so social, groups of condors routinely meander up down and around the Big Sur coast, like they are riding a gigantic carousel. It is no wonder that the official name for a group of condors is a party. The biologists on the condor project log many hours documenting this slow social whirl. Occasionally, we see behaviors that we don’t expect, and cause us to re-evaluate how we view the life of a condor. Life isn’t always a party, and these giants are not always gentle.
Most of this month, we have noticed our adult condors beginning the breeding cycle, which will reach a fever pitch this January. Most of the year, condors are not territorial, but during the breeding season a pair of mated condors will vigorously chase away any intruders from their nest. Our condor flock is young, and most of our adults have mated only recently. In some cases, the boundary between one pair’s nesting territory and their neighbors is under dispute. Condors who genuinely enjoyed dining on dead sea lion together last month are now grappling viciously in midair, and appear to be earnestly trying to harm one another. It turns out that good fences make good neighbors whatever species you belong to.

Also this sad news (despite the law restricting the use of lead ammunition in California, which went into effect July 1):

The Deer Hunting Rifle season in Monterey County ended on the 22nd of September. We plan to trap the entire flock to test for lead poisoning early in October, but intervention did not come soon enough for Pinnacles National Monument condor #336, who died of lead poisoning on September 7th. Observers in the field could see she was ill and assisted Pinnacles biologists in capturing her in Big Sur for veterinary treatment. Veterinarians in Monterey and at the Los Angeles Zoo did all they could to assist her recovery, but she was too weak to recover from the toxic level of lead in her system. The official necropsy report is still pending…

And in case you've ever wondered what a condor smells like...

Condors do not have a reputation for great personal cleanliness. They eat food that we find stinky, and biologists who have held condors in order to give them a medical check up can tell you that they have a strange musty odor that is not entirely pleasant. However, we can tell you that condors really do enjoy bathing, especially in hot weather. It must be hard to be covered in black feathers when it is 95 degrees outside. They generally bathe in groups, and it brings out their playful natures.


As always, you can also keep updated on the condors in Arizona/Utah by checking the Peregrine Fund's Notes from the Field.

Here's wishing you all a wonderful winter!

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger - Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 


May 2008 - Condor Update from Grand Canyon

Condors are being seen regularly around the South Rim and are showing up most days for the Condor Talks at Lookout Studio at 4:00 p.m., so enjoy!
(Note that there are no Condor Talks May 6-8 during our Spring Staff Training.)

We are currently at 63 wild condors in Arizona/Utah. (That includes one bird, #327/tag A7, currently on "time out" in the flight pen at Vermilion Cliffs after sitting unconcerned right next to the busy South Kaibab trail a few weeks ago. Also #250/tag 50, who is currently at the Phoenix Zoo being treated for a dislocated wing.) The number went from 61 to 65 with the release of 4 juveniles from Vermilion Cliffs on March 15. Since then, male 282, having been recaptured twice for approaching people, has been transferred to California for a fresh start there. Then on April 23, 6-year-old female 281 was found dead at the release site. Sadly, she'd nested unsuccessfully with 162 this spring and might have become a mother in the next few years. No necropsy results yet, but she had some trash including coins in her digestive tract which may be related.

Breeding is going well! Study of the birds' behavior along with perusal of the calendar (58 days from lay date when incubation began) leads the biologists to suspect that we have two chicks below the South Rim (neither visible from the Rim unfortunately), and two eggs in the Vermilion Cliffs! Specifically:

--Male 123 (tag 23) & female 127 (tag 27) are nesting in their old cave in the Redwall in Salt Creek drainage (between Hopi & Mohave Points), where they've successfully raised chick 305 (who later died) in 2003 and #392 in 2005. Eddie reports they are "showing signs of tending to a chick that should have hatched on 15-April."

--Male 187 (tag 87) and female 133 (tag 33) are new breeders in a cave way down in the Redwall below Grandeur Point (just west of Yavapai Point). They are acting consistent with the hatching of a chick on or about April 21.

--Male 158 (no tag, seen sometimes at the South Rim) and female 195 (tag 95) are incubating an egg in a cave near the release site in the Vermilion Cliffs. It's due to hatch May 10 if all goes well.

--Male 114 (no tag, and rarely seen at the South Rim) and female 126 (tag 26), after breakage of their first egg this year, laid again in their usual cave in the Vermilion Cliffs on April 25 and are incubating. This egg should hatch 58 days later if all goes well--something like June 23.Last year's two chicks were both captured, tagged & blood-tested, and immediately re-released, on April 21 & 22. Both seem unphased and have been back to the release (and capture!) site since. In fact both seem to be independent of their parents already and are mingling with the flock, though they may occasionally still beg from and get fed by a parent. The Tapeats Creek chick, #441, is currently wearing blank black tags since his or her capture came up rather suddenly, but they'll soon be replaced by tags marked F1. The Vermilion Cliffs chick, #459, got tag number 59.

Eddie Feltes expects to have his Notes From the Field column at www.peregrinefund.org updated within the next few days, so look for more details there.

The latest overall population numbers I have from the US Fish & Wildlife service are from March 31. Eggs have no doubt hatched since then, plus we've had a mortality here, but at least as of March 31 the numbers were: 299 total, 80 in California (counting 5 in temporary captivity and one wild Southern California chick), and 14 in Baja (counting 7 in temporary captivity). Besides the one chick, there were 6 other eggs being incubated in California as of March 31.

Attached below is the latest version of the Condors by Tag # chart. One change: I've freed up a little space by removing the column for GPS satellite transmitters. Eleven birds are currently wearing one, including at least one member of every breeding pair. You can recognize the GPS transmitters by the little solar panel they use for power, unlike the radio transmitters which use enclosed batteries.

California Condors in Arizona by Tag # (157MB PDF File)

Condors are being seen regularly around the South Rim and are showing up most days for the Condor Talks at Lookout Studio at 4:00 p.m., so enjoy!
(Note that there are no Condor Talks May 6-8 during our Spring Staff Training.)

Ms. Marker Marshall
Park Ranger - Interpretation
Grand Canyon National Park

 

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The view from Toroweap Overlook (North Rim), 3,000 vertical feet above the Colorado River, is breathtaking; the sheer drop, dramatic! Renowned Lava Falls Rapid, just downriver, can be seen and heard easily from the overlook. This remote area is located on the northwest rim of the Grand Canyon. More...