Series: California Condor, Arizona/ Utah population updates

Condor Update - 2008-12 (December)

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 thisL.A. Times article

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.

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