Hello Condor Enthusiasts-
I'm back from my winter "furlough" and of course have lots of condor news since my last update in November. Unfortunately, some of it is quite sad.
The AZ/UT population lost at least four condors this winter, one to coyote predation and three to lead poisoning. Two of the lead poisoning fatalities were birds that were well known and loved around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon: Condor 127F/27, a nearly-15-year-old female who'd successfully fledged three chicks in Grand Canyon NP over the years from her nest with 123M/23 in the Salt Creek drainage below the Hermit Road, and her chick from two years ago, 472F/H2. 329M/29, a nearly-six-year-old male, was the third lead fatality. And nearly-2-year-old female 485F/85, a bird released from captivity for the first time in November, died around February 1 of predation.
On top of all that, both last year's Tapeats Creek (Grand Canyon NP) chick, #527, and now also the Vermilion Cliffs (National Monument) fledgling, #515, are missing and presumed dead. And 133F/33, who raised a chick below Grandeur Point (Grand Canyon NP) with her mate 187M/87 two years ago, is currently at the Phoenix Zoo being treated for lead poisoning by veterinarian Dr. Kathy Orr. Fortunately, 133 is showing signs of recovery.
Condor 413M/13, who went to the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho last year for treatment of a beak injury, is still being held there as a mentor bird. He is expected to return to Arizona in May along with the next cohort of birds to be released here.
Assuming the death of #515 and 527, and not counting #133 or 413, that leaves us with 72 free-flying condors in the Arizona/Utah area, not to mention three youngsters waiting in the flight pen at Vermilion Cliffs for their first release into the wild.
We also have two eggs in Arizona! Veteran pair 114M/no tag and 126F/26 laid an egg in their usual Vermilion Cliffs National Monument cave on Valentine's Day, February 14. And a new pair is suspected to have laid an egg in another Vermilion Cliffs cave on March 10. This is 13-year-old male 162M/62, who lost his former mate to zinc poisoning in 2008, and 7-year-old female 296F/-6, a first-time breeder.
More eggs are expected in the next few weeks. Even recently "widowed" 123M/23 and temporarily-abandoned 187M/87 have been seen courting again--both the same female, 316F/16!
Eddie Feltes reports that condors are now flying back and forth regularly between the release site at Vermilion Cliffs and the North Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon's south rim, the Colorado River corridor of Marble Canyon, and Zion National Park. Here on the Grand Canyon's South Rim someone sees condors somewhere most days, although the birds have been conspicuously absent at the daily 3 p.m. Condor Talks by Lookout Studio. Apparently the snow-covered rock outcrops below north-facing cliffs at 7,000 feet leave something to be desired as overnight roosts at this time of year!
Links to The Peregrine Fund web site for more information:
The Peregrine Fund's press release about the lead fatalities this winter and steps being taken to prevent future deaths may be found at:
And Eddie Feltes' latest Notes From the Field, dated March 1, 2010, is at:
Population Numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of February 28, 2010:
(These numbers do not reflect the suspected death of last year's two Arizona chicks, #527 & 515, or the release of two young captive-bred birds at Vermilion Cliffs on March 6, or 133F/33's current treatment at the Phoenix Zoo.)
Total Population: 347
In California: 94
In Baja: 17
In AZ/UT: 73 (now 72 counting all the above adjustments)
--News from California:
Pinnacles National Monument recently announced the first condor nest within current park boundaries in over 100 years! An egg was laid there the first week of March. For more information and a photo of male 318 on his nest, go to this link:
San Diego Wild Animal Park reported their first two eggs of the season on January 25. Southern California reported that their first egg of the season (and probably THE first wild egg of the season?) was laid around February 10 in southern California, just four days before our first egg here in Arizona.
--The latest Condor Chart by Tag Number:
Condorchart March 19, 2010 (161 MB PDF File)
I saw my first turkey vulture of the season today; spring must arriving. Happy spring to you all!
Ms. Marker Marshall
Grand Canyon National Park