Series: California Condor, Arizona/ Utah population updates

Condor Update - 2008-05 (May)

Hello Condor Enthusiasts -

Condors are being seen regularly around the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park 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 National Monument after sitting unconcerned right next to the busy South Kaibab trail, Grand Canyon National Park 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 National Monument 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 National Monument! 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) at Grand Canyon National Park, 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) at Grand Canyon National Park. 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 at Grand Canyon National Park) and female 195 (tag 95) are incubating an egg in a cave near the release site in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. It's due to hatch May 10 if all goes well.

--Male 114 (no tag, and rarely seen at the South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park) and female 126 (tag 26), after breakage of their first egg this year, laid again in their usual cave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument 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 (Grand Canyon NP), #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 National Monument 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)

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