Series: California Condor, Arizona/ Utah population updates

Condor Update - 2009-07 (July)

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 Grand Canyon NP 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 (Grand Canyon NP), there is no doubt this chick exists and in fact he or she has been given studbook number 527. The Vermilion Cliffs (National Monument) 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 of the Grand Canyon 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 in Zion National Park. They're also seen fairly often around Angel's Landing in the main part of Zion NP.

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 of the Grand Canyon 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