Series: California Condor, Arizona/ Utah population updates

Condor Update - 2009-06 (June)

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 Grand Canyon NP's 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 National Monument release site 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 National Monument, In Grand Canyon NP: 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 South Rim of the Grand Canyon. On the North Rim of the Grand Cnayon 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, Grand Canyon NP 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