• High Peaks and Big Berry Manzanita. NPS Photo|Sierra Willoughby


    National Park California

2004 Updates on Condors

These updates are from 2004 and 2005, the first two years after Pinnacles National Monument became a release site for the Condor Recovery Program. For current information, visit our update page.

October 14, 2005
All of the newly released condors are continuing to do well. They have integrated into the social structure of the birds that were released in October 2004. They are choosing safe roosting locations each night, and biologists do not have to monitor them as carefully as they did just after their release.

Condor 340 is making excellent progress with his flight skills. He accompanied an older condor to Coalinga, about 60 miles southeast of Pinnacles. 340 is one of the birds who wears a GPS transceiver, and biologists are able to download detailed information about his flight range.

September 30, 2005
The flight pen at Pinnacles is now empty for the first time since 2003. All of the juvenile condors have been released and are living in the wild. Hoi, the adult mentor condor who has lived in the flight pen at Pinnacles since 2003, has been transferred to the Los Angeles Zoo to serve as a mentor there.

All of the newly released birds are feeding very well, making good choices for roost and developing their flight skills quickly. In fact, most of the new birds have been making flights of up to twenty minutes.

345 and 351 were released on Monday, September 26. 351 roosted at the facility that night. 345 flew around quite a bit and roosted at the facility with 351 and 306.

335 and 336 left the flight pen on Friday, September 23. After 335 was released, he spent one night roosting on the ground but has otherwise done well and 336 has been a star from the start. She roosted in the roost pine on her first night out of the flight pen!

More chicks will be coming to Pinnacles in early 2006. If you're interested in attending one of our public release events, we'll be posting details about our next event as soon as we can.

September 23, 2005
Condor 335 was released from the flight pen this morning. He is one of the two condors in the third group who wears a GPS transciever, so biologists will be able to track his range each day when the data from the transceiver is downloaded.

The other three condors of the third group that were released at the public event are improving their flight skills. Last night, they roosted with the other six free-flying birds in a pine tree. All of the free-flying condors have been feeding together. This indicates that the newly released birds have shown good competitive abilities while feeding, which is a positive step towards integration into the group.

September 19, 2005
This first week is a crucial time for the newly released condors because their flight skills are weak. They have been making practice flights around the ridge, but they sometimes make a flight and then can't get back to where they started from.

On Saturday night, 330 and 340 did not leave the immediate area of the facility, and roosted on a snag just outside the double-door trap. Condor 332 explored a bit more than the others, and was not able to make it back to the ridgetop for the night. He tried to get into a tree down the hill from the flight pen, but he couldn't quite get there. He settled for a safe spot in a nearby snag.

On Sunday night, 330 took a short flight in the late afternoon and landed downhill from the flight pen. No trees were nearby, and 330 ended up roosting on the ground. Biologists spent the night nearby to flush away coyotes and other predators.

During the next couple of weeks, the newly released birds will develop the muscle structure and flight skills that they need to get into trees and other safe roosting spots at night. Once they are able to do this, biologists will be able to take a break from monitoring them so closely.

September 17, 2005
Three condors were released during a public release event on Saturday, Septemebr 17th at Pinnacles National Monument. Over three hundred people witnessed the first flights of condors 330, 332, and 340.

The birds left the double-door trap shortly after 10:00, and spent a few minutes on the ground before making short flights around the ridgetop near the flight pen that had been their home for the last few months. They were joined by 313, one of the condors who was released last year, soon after they left the flight pen.

During the next few weeks, the condors will be monitored closely to ensure that they stay out of the reach of predators such as coyotes and mountain lions. The most critical time will be when they choose their roosting spots in the evening. Biologists will be watching to make sure that the condors roost in trees. During the first release at Pinnacles in 2003, one of the birds had to be recaptured because it was roosting on the ground.

Four more California condors will be released over the next two weeks, joining six others that have been flying free since October 2004. Details about their progress as they begin their lives in the wild will be posted regularly; check back soon!

May 11, 2005
Two chicks recently arrived at Pinnacles from the Los Angeles Zoo. Condors 332 and 351 are both about a year old. They've joined six other chicks from the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Oregon Zoo in the Pinnacles flight pen, and all will be released sometime this summer or fall.

April 22, 2005
Second group – released 10/2004
The free-flying condors at Pinnacles are doing well and slowly expanding their range. In early April, 313 made a trip down to Bitterwater Road, and spent its first night alone outside the park. Since their release in October, four of the six birds have roosted outside the park, and 306 has spent a full week outside the monument’s boundaries. Only condors 312 and 317 have never left the park.

The second group of condors hasn’t been seen in the High Peaks as much as the first group, but many people have had luck seeing them from the Pinnacles Campground, which is just outside the east boundary of the monument. The best time to catch a glimpse of the birds is usually from 5:00 to 7:00 in the evening while they search for a good roosting location. Please keep in mind that the campground is only open to registered campers. If you’re not planning on camping, the nearby bench Trail would be a good alternative.

First group – released 12/03 and 01/04
Condors 278 and 286 have been released at Big Sur, and are adapting well into the social structure there. Read about their progress in the Ventana Wilderness Society's Notes from the Field (link).

Condors 266, 270, and 287 were transferred to Arizona. Read updates about them in the Peregrine Fund's Notes from the Field (link).

Only one condor from the first group to be released at Pinnacles remains in the park. Condor 265 has been living in the flight pen since he was retrapped in the spring of 2004 because of his close calls with hikers and climbers. 265 will be released this summer or fall.

Third group – to be released in summer or fall 2005
The first condor chick to ever hatch at the Oregon Zoo and four chicks from the San Diego Wild Animal Park have been transferred to Pinnacles and are living in the flight pen. Two more chicks were expected from the Los Angeles Zoo, but there’s a chance that they may remain in southern California.

The third Pinnacles condor release was tentatively scheduled for May, but has now been postponed until summer or fall. Details about the event will be posted as soon as they are finalized.

March 25, 2005
The younger condors have been seen in the High Peaks much more during the last month. Earlier this year, individuals had been seen there occasionally, but they are now traveling as a group and spending time exploring the peaks. Condor 286, one of the first birds to be released at Pinnacles, has been used over the past two months as a free-flying mentor for the younger birds. The younger condors have also been using a new feeding site.

Now that they’re exploring more of the park and feeding at the new site, 286 will be recaptured and transferred to Big Sur this week. He will join condor 278, another former Pinnacles bird, and they will be released in that area soon.

Another juvenile condor has arrived at Pinnacles and is adjusting well to life in the flight pen. Condor 340, a male from the Oregon Zoo, has joined four juveniles from the Hopper Mountain facility. Two more juvenile condors will be coming from the Los Angeles Zoo this spring. These six birds will be the third group of condors to be released at Pinnacles, most likely sometime in May.

The condor field crew recently put in some long hours repairing an opening in the flight pen. The mesh that makes up most of the pen is held up by a cable system, and the cable had pulled away from the frame that holds it in place. This caused a section of the mesh to sag down into the pen. The damage was repaired that evening, and the field crew is continuing to make modifications to the mesh to avoid another problem. The field staff generally works from 10 – 14 hours each day; the after-hours repairs to the flight pen have made their days even longer.

February 21, 2005
The last few months have been eventful for the Pinnacles condors. We’ve transferred some of our older birds to other release sites, and we continue to monitor newly-released condors as they develop their flying skills. Pinnacles has also become the home for more juvenile condors that are scheduled for release sometime this year.

Last summer, three of the original birds that were the first to be released here were seen perching on power poles near the monument. While the birds lived in the flight pen at Pinnacles, a mock power pole within the pen trained them to avoid power poles once they were released into the wild. This worked by delivering a mild shock to any bird that landed on it.

Biologists were surprised to find three birds landing on poles in August 2004, and quickly retrapped all of the older birds to prevent them from teaching the behavior to the younger birds that would be released in October. The mock pole in the pen was modified to more closely match the poles in the area surrounding Pinnacles.

Still, the chance that the condors would continue to land on the poles if they were re-released was still a major concern, and biologists decided to transfer five birds of the original group of six to release areas in Big Sur and Arizona. These sites have well established flocks, in which adult condors guide the behavior of the younger birds. Biologists believe that transferring condors from Pinnacles first cohort to these other release sites will break their behavioral pattern of perching on power poles.

Condor 278 has been transferred to the Big Sur area, and 286 will follow soon. 286 is currently being used as a free flying mentor for the younger condors released at Pinnacles in October 2004. Condors 287, 270, and 266 were transferred to Arizona in mid-February for release at the Vermillion Cliffs.

The only bird from the first group who will remain at Pinnacles is condor 265. He was originally released for only two months, after which time he was recaptured for approaching climbers in the High Peaks. Condor 265 did not land on power poles, and we plan to re-release him in late spring or early summer. He will hopefully serve as a free-flying mentor for the newly-released younger birds.

The younger condors are doing well and continue to hone their flying skills while exploring the monument and surrounding areas. They have generally stayed close to the release site, possibly to remain close to the older birds in the flight pen. With the re-release of condor 286 and the transfer of most of the older condors to other release areas, the younger birds have begun to expand their range.

When condor 286 was re-released, two of the younger free-flying birds traveled with him to the High Peaks and roosted there with him. All of the younger birds have traveled to the High Peaks at least once. Biologists are also hoping 286 will lead the second cohort condors from the temporary feeding site to use a semi-permanent feeding site.

In early February, four juvenile condors arrived at Pinnacles’ flight pen from the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in southern California. They are adjusting well to life in the flight pen. They were reared at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and the group is made up of three males and one female. Three more young birds should arrive at Pinnacles this spring, one from the Oregon Zoo and two from the Los Angeles Zoo. We plan to release the third cohort of seven condors sometime in 2005.

December 8, 2004
All of the second cohort of birds have been released. They are continuing to work on their flight skills and have been staying close to the release pen. Condor 307 has been the most adventurous, venturing out of the park for days at a time, roosting in trees and on peaks near the park’s boundaries.

Unlike the first group of birds to be released at Pinnacles, the younger birds have not shown an inclination to visit the High Peaks. If you’re hoping to see on the of younger birds in flight, the best place to look is in the vicinity of the Pinnacles Campground, which is located just outside the east entrance. The best time to watch for them is between 3:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, when they are preparing to roost for the evening.

November 13, 2004
On Friday, November 12th, Condor 312 was released and 313 was rereleased (he was captured during the process of trying to get 278 back into the flight pen). This brings us to a total of 5 free-flying condors: 286, 307, 310, 312 and 313. As we had hoped, 286 is showing the newly released condors to the food we place for them and leading them to good roosting trees near the flight pen. In fact, 286 spends all of his time hanging out with the newly released condors, all of which are doing quite well. 307 is the only one that has made a big trip out of the park. She spent a few days outside the park’s boundaries and then made her way back to the flight pen. As soon as 312 and 313 find the feeding area and are roosting in trees we will release the last two condors in this cohort.

We have recaptured last year’s cohort because three of the condors were seen landing on power poles or telephone poles. 286 will soon join the rest of his comrades in the flight pen for a short training session that will hopefully teach them not to land on power poles.

November 8, 2004
The younger birds that were released in October are doing very well outside the flight pen. They are roosting on snags at night and practicing their flight skills by day. It's still not possible to see the younger birds from the trail system, but within the next month or so, it may be possible to see them as their flight skills improve and they take longer flights.

Three more birds will be released this week: condors 306, 312, and 317. They are all female birds, and all have been fitted with GPS transceivers.

Condor 278 was trapped so that he could participate in power pole aversion training. Condor 313 was staying close to 278, and entered the double-door trap right along with him. Biologists didn't want to pass up the opportunity to catch 278, so they decided to close the trap on both birds. 313 will be rereleased Wednesday with the rest of the younger birds.

286 was also slated for retrapping and power pole training, but he has shown no signs of perching on poles and generally stays within the park, so biologists decided to let him remain free.

November 1, 2004
Condors 310 and 313 have joined 307 outside the flight pen. They were released Friday morning, and spent the weekend working on their flying skills near the condor facility. Condor 286 has remained in the area and associates closely with the birds, showing his dominance during feeding times.

278 and 286 are the only two of the previously released condors that are still flying free, and they will be recaptured for a short period for power pole aversion training to avoid the chance that they will pass on the poel perching behavior to newly released birds.

Three more females will be released in the next week or two. Although the viewing area is now closed to the public, the birds will soon be seen from the trail system at Pinnacles. About a month after the last release, condors were seen in the High Peaks area.

This winter, we are expecting the arrival of six more juvenile birds. This third group will likely be released in 2005.

October 28, 2004
About 150 people came to Pinnacles on October 28th to see the release of a second group of California condors. Only one of the three condors that was scheduled to be released decided to enter the double door trap.

As people at the viewing area looked on through spotting scopes and binoculars, condor 307 stepped out of the flight pen and onto a snag just outside, joining condor 286, who had been perched on the same snag for much of the day. 286 is one of the first group of birds that was released at Pinnacles in January of this year.

After a few minutes, 307 made a graceful flight around the flight pen and surrounding ridge, landing on a higher snag. During a later flight, 307 landed near the ground, but managed to make it up to a higher snag.

307 was not originally slated for release this month because she had injured her beak inside the flight pen in September. She didn't feed well for a few days, but then the rough edges of her beak smoothed down and she was judged to be well enough for release.

Condors 310 and 313 could also have been released, but they did not choose to enter the double-door trap. We chose to do a "soft release" using a cage with two doors that allows condors to leave the pen without being physically trapped by humans. They enter a cage from the flight pen, and then the inner door is closed and the outer door is opened. Ideally, all of the birds scheduled for release will decide to enter the trap on the first day, but it can take up to a few days for all of them to leave the pen.

October 28th is the only day that the viewing area will be open to visitors.

October 13, 2004
Free-flying Birds
In September, a local landowner noticed a condor roosting on a power pole and contacted Pinnacles. Biologists located Condor 266 and began monitoring him more closely, and found that he roosted twice more on power poles. Condors 270 and 278 were also found to be roosting on power or telephone poles. The birds will be recaptured, and the next release has been delayed until October 28th so that condor staff can begin to address the issue.

In the flight pen, there is a mock power pole that delivers a slight electric shock when a bird lands on it. The pole was put into place to teach the condors to avoid perching on power and telephone poles. The mock pole in the flight pen is being modified to look more like the poles that the condors have been perching on. Also, two posts just outside the pen will be converted into mock poles and electrified.

Condor 278 was recaptured once before because it appeared he was not feeding well. He was re-released about a month ago, and was doing great. He had no problems reintegrating with the other condors, but was recently observed perching on a telephone pole.

Condor 270 has also been recaptured once already this summer. Biologists were holding him because blood tests showed slightly increased levels of lead, but no problems developed and the levels decreased. After his release, he was healthy and doing well until he was observed perched on a power pole.

One other condor has been recapture because of a problem with his tracking equipment. Condor 287 is the only condor at Pinnacles fitted with a GPS transceiver that allows biologists to closely monitor his movements, but it has recently stopped working and needs to be replaced.

Condors in the Flight Pen
Biologists noticed that condor 307 had chipped the end of her beak, and was not active or feeding. After a few days, the rough edges of the beak had been smoothed away and she resumed her normal behavior. If we had released condors on October 15th as we had planned, she would not have been a candidate for release, but biologists feel that she may be ready because of the additional time.

Improvements to the Release Facility
At one of the feeding sites, a small, mobile electric fence that had been installed to protect condors and carcasses that they eat was not large enough to keep predators away. The Pinnacles Trail Crew replaced the small fence with a larger and higher fence that should do a better job of keeping animals out. Within a day or two, a coyote was found inside the fence, and it’s thought that it may have gotten inside before the fence was complete. Biologists will flush the coyote out of the area and then continue to monitor the boundary for predator activity.

August 18, 2004
On Sunday, August 15, Biologists noticed an adult condor outside the condor facility, and became concerned that the mentor bird had escaped the flight pen. The bird turned out to be Condor 199, an adult from Big Sur who made the journey over to Pinnacles to check out the new birds in the neighborhood. Condor 199 has remained in the area ever since, and some of the Pinnacles juvenile birds have joined him on trips outside the monument.

Biologists are working to rerelease condors 270 and 278. 270 was recaptured for lead testing and was kept in the facility because of an obstruction in his throat. Condor 278 was recaptured when biologists noticed that he was missing three tail feathers. Two of the feathers have since grown back.

July 28, 2004
The condors that are living in the wild are continuing to expand their range. They often stay away from the monument for as long as six days, though they can also travel long distances and return in a single day. They have been seen as far south as Hwy 198, and north near the town of Hollister.

Last month, biologists became concerned about the possibility of lead poisoning when the condors were seen eating carcasses along Hwy 25. Four birds were captured and tested for lead. Results from lab tests showed that two of the condors probably ingested lead, but their blood lead levels were not high enough to require chelation (a therapy that removes lead from blood). One of the affected birds, condor 270, had an obstruction in his throat, so he was held in the flight pen for observations. A second blood test was run for 270 to ensure that his lead level was decreasing. An increasing lead level would be a sign indicating the possibility of serious lead poisoning, which requires treatment. The second test showed lower levels, and 270 will be released soon.

Other than condor 270, there are currently nine other birds in the flight pen. Six of them are new to Pinnacles; two are from the San Diego Zoo and four are from the Los Angeles Zoo. Hoi, the adult mentor bird, is teaching these birds the skills they will need to survive in the wild. Their tentative release date is in mid-October.

Condor 278 was recaptured this spring because he was missing three tail feathers. Biologists wanted to make sure that the feathers would molt and then grow back naturally. Two of the feathers have molted, and 278 will be released soon.

Condor 265 was recaptured this spring because of behavioral problems, and is currently living in the flight pen. He had been approaching hikers and climbers, a dangerous behavior for wild condors. Biologists considered sending him to the Oregon Zoo for a while, but for logistical reasons this will not be possible.

July 16, 2004
The condors have been steadily increasing their range, and are making longer flights throughout San Benito and Monterey counties. They have been returning to feed on carcasses in the monument, but lead poisoning is always a concern now that they are spending more time away.

During the last month, all four free-flying condors were trapped so that they could be tested for lead poisoning. Initial field tests show that their lead levels are acceptably low, but we are awaiting more accurate lab test results.

April 14, 2004
Much has happened since the last update. Number 287 continues to roam ever farther from the park, with the most recent wanderings being documented by his GPS transmitters and verifying that his movements over the last 2 months have encompassed almost 300 square miles in and adjacent to the Monument. Meanwhile, both #265 and #278 have been recaptured using the double-door trap feature of the flight pen, which allows biologists to let condors come and go from the pen without physically capturing them. The concerns that led to the captures were different for each bird. Number 265 has been approaching hikers and climbers to within very close range (2 feet) on at least 5 occasions, and had shown no tendency towards ceasing this behavior. The hope is that by holding him for a while, he will have be taken out of the social interactions of the other free-ranging birds, and lose his high ranking status in the overall condor pecking order. When released, he will have to spend more time and work harder to maintain his place in the dominance hierarchy and have less time and/or inclination to approach humans. The concern with #278 was that he was not competing well with the other birds for food and his physical condition was deteriorating to the point where he was taking unacceptable chances with predators. This was suggested by an observation where he had narrowly missed being grabbed by a coyote near a feeding site where #278 had approached food when the predator was nearby. The other birds were avoiding the site at that point because they had seen the coyote, but #278 went down to the food, perhaps because he thought that he would be able to feed better without the other birds there. He has regained weight since capture and is doing well. The other 4 remaining free-flying birds are feeding well, roaming widely, and not approaching people or buildings.

March 12, 2004
Since the last update, we have transferred 2 new birds from the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, north of Ventura, to the Pinnacles flight pen. They have settled in without incident, and the adult mentor bird, Hoi, has accepted the birds without excessive negative interaction. Immediately following the release of the new captive birds from their transfer carriers, the 6 released birds exhibited heightened curiosity in the form of spending the next several days in close proximity of the captive birds. In fact, 5 of the birds roosted right on the flight pen during one night!

On a worrisome note, several of the birds have begun to approach visitors in the High Peaks area along trail areas and roosting in perches that are too accessible to approach. On 2 known occasions, #65 approached climbers on Machete Ridge, coming to within 2 feet of the nervous visitors. While condors do not attack people, just the presence of a 25 pound bird with a 9-1/2 foot wingspan, razor-sharp bill and imposing claws can be a frightening proposition to an unsuspecting climber just summiting a rock. In addition, several birds landed at a rest stop at a popular trail junction, and were subsequently surrounded by a curious throng of visitors. As mentioned in the last update, every time a bird is closely approached by people, it’s chances at continued freedom in the wild decrease. Everyone can do their part by remembering to not approach or feed condors, and in the event that condors approach you, move back at least 100 feet from them.

Whenever birds are discovered too close to people, they are being “hazed” with super-soaker squirt guns in an attempt to teach the birds to maintain greater distance between themselves and hikers/climbers. It will be very important to teach the impressionable birds this lesson so that they don’t put themselves in situations that threaten their survive once they roam outside the park in coming months. In other locations where condors have approached people too closely they have been shot, died of drinking antifreeze left on the ground by a leaky radiator, and narrowly missed being hit by cars while feeding on roadkill alongside a busy highway.

February 19, 2001
Quite a bit has happened in the last week. A pair of golden eagles were seen copulating near Drywall Slide and appear to be establishing a nest in Grassy Canyon. We have not observed any aggressive behavior toward the condors from either bird in this pair, but there is at least one juvenile golden eagle in the release area that chases and stoops condors in flight. The condors have done a fine job of out-maneuvering and evading this eagle.

Since the condors are spending a significant amount of their time in the High Peaks, including roosting, we are beginning to observe some human/condor interactions. We received two reports over the weekend of condors approaching climbers on top of rocks and observed visitors approaching condors perched on rocks both near and well away from the trail. Please remember that it is essential for the condors to keep from associating with humans. Each condor has one chance at life in the wild. Every time a person approaches a condor for a better look or a photo that bird’s chances of success will decrease. If you see condors approaching people, please contact a ranger at the visitor center or ranger station.

Condor #278 made his first flight to the High Peaks on Tuesday the 17th. With the rain and poor flight conditions he is still there as are all the other birds except one. Condor # 266 was somewhere in the Frog Canyon area this morning. As 278’s trip to the High Peaks indicates he is improving daily and though his development has been a little slower than the other condors he is doing a great job in the wild.

February 11, 2004
The last several days of clear, warm weather have provided ideal conditions for the condors to practice their flying skills. Many visitors witnessed a group of four condors flying over the High Peaks area over the weekend, along with the much smaller turkey vultures, giving folks a great opportunity to compare the two species. All six birds caught thermals this afternoon, spirally 1,500 feet above the release facility, before aiming their sights again towards the High Peaks. All but #278 then charted a glide path towards the Peaks and soon became tiny spots in the distance as they soared away. While #278 didn’t join them this time around, he has been integrating with the rest of the group much better, as evidenced by feeding at the carcass in close proximity to the rest of the group, approaching #266 to preen, and roosting together with the other 5 birds in their favorite night roost pine. The birds continue to feed well, with 2 birds registering weights in excess of 23 pounds, as measured by the birds’ perching on a scale set up next to the release facility.

February 5, 2004
The last few days have brought some rainy weather, more interactions of condors and other birds such as raven, golden eagles and red-tailed hawks, and continued improvement in flight skills and exploring more country. During the rains of 2/2 and 2/3, the birds spent much of the time hunkered down, but nonetheless also made some brief forays into the heavy rain and high winds. A golden eagle was observed diving at a few of the condors, which caused evasive manuevers by some individuals, and in one case the eagle perched briefly on the same branch with a condor. Ravens also took turns harassing the much larger condors. On February 3rd, 5 of the birds took off as a group in a different direction than they have flown before, returning 45 mins later. The birds appear to be approaching the carcass feeding site much more cautiously, sometimes taking 30 mins to examine the carcass before approaching it to feed. This is a positive behavior, since it is in their best interest to not approach food until they are sure no other predators are near that could make the condors become “lunch.”

January 30, 2004
Condors #265, 266, 270, and 286 are developing their flight skills as they fly over the campground - often for more than 20 minutes – making this the best location to view the birds. These four are now able to gain significant altitude, and at times disappear into low-lying clouds. Condor #287 is still the only bird that visits the High Peaks regularly. These five birds usually roost in a conspicuous gray pine on the ridge just behind the campground. The flight pen is still comforting to #278 who spends most of his time in that area. He roosts on the posts of the flight pen but often flies over the ridge with the other condors.

As you may already know, we will be getting six more condors from the L.A. Zoo. The condors at the zoo were moved from the pen with their parents to a pen with other juvenile condors two weeks ago. The zoo usually socializes the birds for a month or two before they are transferred to a release site, so the new condors may not arrive until March. We have not established a date for the transfer yet but will pass that along once it is determined.

January 28, 2004
The last week has brought significant changes, as all six birds are now free from the release facility. The birds have really improved their flying skills demonstrably, with two birds embarking on impressive 2-3 hour long afternoon flights over the High Peaks.

Bird #287 has proven himself to be the most adept flyer, with #270 second strongest, and #265, 266, and 286 close behind. Bird #278 was the last bird to be released from the flight pen and is still working on his flying techniques.

Project crew members breathed a collective sigh of relief when the birds started to roost in trees at night, instead of sleeping on the ground, thus reducing the likelihood of being eaten by nocturnal predators. And finally, the birds wasted no time in finding the calf carcass that had been placed at the newly established feeding site. This new location was chosen to be quite close to the flight pen, yet far enough away that the birds were faced with approaching a novel feeding arrangement. These skills are important for scavenging birds to develop so that they can hone in on new food sources as they soar over the countryside.

January 26, 2004
The last juvenile condor, 286, was released on Saturday evening, and has been doing well out of the pen. He has been roosting in trees each night, and staying near the release facility.

January 23, 2004
Another condor was released Wednesday afternoon. Condor 278 entered the double-door trap at about 12:30, and after leaving the flight pen, spent the rest of the afternoon making short practice flights around the facility. Later that evening, 278 slowly made his way up the outside of the release pen and roosted on top of it for the night.

All of the other released birds are doing well in the wild. 287 has been making long practice flights to the High Peaks each afternoon, which is excellent news for the condor biologists. 270 is also doing well, and has been seen at least once in the High Peaks. 266 and 265 are making longer flights, but are staying closer to the release facility. All of the birds have been roosting in trees and off the ground at night.

If you'd like to try to see a condor while you're visiting Pinnacles, the best place would be the High Peaks or Condor Gulch Trails in the afternoon. Check in at the Bear Gulch Visitor Center for more information.

During the next few days, condor biologists will keep trying to release 286, the last juvenile bird to remain in the pen. A new group of six condors will be arriving in the park sometime in February. This group will be males and females.

January 12, 2004
Earlier this week, biologists were concerned about condor 286 because it had been roosting on the ground, instead of in a tree or on a cliff where it would be safe from predators. The biologists decided to recapture the bird and return it to the flight pen. 286 was lured back into the double-door trap with food, and is now living in the pen.

The other condors are doing well in the wild. 287, the first bird to be released, has been venturing away from the release area and returning every few days to eat. This is the behavior that biologists were hoping for.

The three other birds (265, 266, and 270) have been roosting on the release facility each night and are staying close to the area during the day. They are seldom apart for more than a few minutes. After they are in the wild a little longer, biologists are hoping that they will follow 287's lead and venture farther from the release area.

January 5, 2004
On Monday, January 5th, four birds were released from the flight pen, which makes a total of five condors soaring the skies of Pinnacles. All of the juveniles except 278 are now living outside the release pen. On Monday afternoon, the birds were all staying close to the release area, and were being closely monitored by park biologists.

Last month, two birds were released around 2:30 pm on Saturday, December 20th. Biologists were within an hour of calling off the release for the second day in a row when numbers 287 and 278 ventured into the double-door trap. The two condors emerged from the facility only minutes after being faced with freedom.

Both 278 and 287 decided to not venture far in their first flight. Both stayed in the general area of the holding facility. The birds flew for about two hours before settling down to roost for the evening. Both birds' roosting sites were closely monitored by biologists and volunteers to ensure the birds were in a safe location. Monitoring continued into the early evening.

The viewing site is closed to the public, however, there are opportunities to view the birds from the trail system. In the future, we're planning to continue to provide access to the public for condor releases. Another group of birds will be arriving in the park next year.

For more detailed updates, visit the Ventana Wilderness Society.

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