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 chart for the AZ/UT birds, which includes two condors released on November 2 and four other birds, listed on a third page, that will probably be released in February or March.
Condor Tag Chart as of November 14, 2009 (240 kb PDF file)
Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of August 31
(These are the most recent available, and do not reflect recent releases at Pinnacles National Park and at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, the death of the Baja chick, and who knows what else?):
Total Population: 356
In California: 92 (counting 2 birds temporarily in captivity)
In Baja: 17 (counting one bird temporarily at the SDWAP, and a chick that has since died)
In AZ/UT: 76 (counting one bird in Boise being treated for a bill injury and two chicks)
Since August 31, there have been some changes to Arizona/Utah condor numbers.
--413M/tag 13 is still at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, although he’s now considered cured of his bill injury and is awaiting transport back to Arizona.
--Two new one-year-olds raised at the World Center for Birds of Prey were released at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on November 2, and are doing well in the wild thus far: 466M/tag H4 and 485F/tag 85.
--Sadly, we may have lost the Grand Canyon NP Tapeats Creek chick, 527 (offspring of 210F/tag 10 and 122M/tag 22). Eddie Feltes has this to say on the topic in his most recent "Notes from the Field," at www.peregrinefund.org:
Over the past two months the Grand Canyon NP wildlife staff have made three different trips backpacking down to the nest cave observation site of Condors 210F and 122M, in hopes of getting some observations of chick 527, but all three trips have turned up nothing. We are certain that if still alive, the chick is no longer in the nest cave, and if fledged, the bird is not in the immediate vicinity of the nest cave wall. These factors alone left a concerned outlook on Condor 527’s fate, but I still did not rule out the fledging of the chick to another nearby location, as both parent birds were still hanging out in the area during all of our trips.
Grand Canyon Park biologist Rosa Palarino made another trip down to get some observations, and Rosa did not receive one signal from either parent bird during her four-day trip. And in following the movements of both Condors 122M and 210F, we are certain that both birds stayed in Utah for eight days straight together last week, making any hopes of Condor 527 still being alive fade drastically.
I asked Eddie if it’s time to take this chick off the condor chart, and he responded that he’s not ready to give up all hope yet. Although both parents roosted nightly in Utah for so many consecutive nights, it’s still possible that they might have done a stealth day trip or two to the Grand Canyon during that time to feed their chick. Keep your fingers crossed!
So adding in the two new releases, optimistically counting both chicks as alive, but discounting 413M way off there in Boise, that now gives us "about 77" wild condors in the AZ/UT area by my count.
Other Arizona/Utah news:
One of this year’s chicks is no longer technically a chick! The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument chick has been out of its nest for about a month, but until this week was staying close enough to have gotten there by hop/flapping. On November 11 this chick had relocated to a ledge considerably below its nest cave, to which location it must have flown (at least enough to break its fall!). So condor 515 is now officially considered a fledgling.
A Note on Condor Tag Numbers in AZ/UT:
So how did Condor 466M wind up with the tag H4? Well, the number 66 had already been taken by Condor 266M. The current system being used in Arizona is that each year’s condor cohort gets a letter (if needed) that goes up from year to year. Condors hatched in 2007 got F’s. G is being skipped because it looks too much like a C or a 0, just as B was skipped because it might be mistaken for an 8. So birds hatched in 2008 get the letter H. But H6 was already taken by Condor 476M, so 466 had to settle for tag H4.
News regarding this year’s chicks in California and Mexico:
All seven remaining (as of August 31) condor chicks in the wild in California either have fledged or were expected to have fledged by this time, but I’m not up-to-date on whether they are all still alive and did actually fledge.
We’re still waiting for September and October stats to be published, although at least for the condors in the Big Sur area there are field notes available at http://www.ventanaws.org/species_condors_fieldnotes/
The successful fledging of two of the Big Sur chicks from their redwood tree cavity nests in September is described there.
Unfortunately, the only Baja chick was found dead below its nest cave on October 22, just when fledging was expected any day. Cause of death is not yet known.
--MarkerMs. Marker Marshall
Grand Canyon National Park