Hello Condor Enthusiasts-Sorry it's been quite a while since my last Condor Update of July 13, 2011! As usual, highlights are in bold.
Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of September 30, 2011:
Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity):199
Wild Population: 197
California: 104 (including one new fledgling at Pinnacles and two new fledglings plus two still-unfledged chicks in southern California)
Baja California, Mexico: 23 (including one chick)
Arizona/Utah: 70 (now 71 after 2 birds were released and one chick died in October)
Arizona Breeding Season News:
At my last update, we were at 68 condors in Arizona/Utah counting one confirmed chickon the East Kaibab plateau, being raised by trio 241F/41, 193M/93 & 243M/43. Since then, both suspected Grand Canyon chicks (the Battleship chick of 280F/80 & 234M/4, and the Pipe Creek chick of 133F/33 & 187M/87) were visually confirmed.[68+2=70.]This marks the first time we've had three confirmed chicks in Arizona, a happy milestone!
Unfortunately, the Pipe Creek chick (given studbook #633) was found dead on October 23 at the bottom of the Redwall limestone, directly below its nest. [70-1=69 wild condors.]Necropsy results are consistent with a fatal fall.
The East Kaibab "Trio" chick (studbook #610) and the Battleship chick (#634) are both doing very well. The Peregrine Fund's Field Manager Eddie Feltes had this to say about the "trio" in his September 1 "Notes from the Field" blog at http://blogs.peregrinefund.org/article/732:
"The now famous "Trio" nesting pair/group comprised of adult condors 193M, 241F, and 243M have drafted the disdain back in our faces from being that obnoxious group that is never going to successfully breed until they figure out this '2 condor male/female thing' has pulled it off. All three birds shared equal incubation duties, have shared equal time feeding the chick, equal time guarding the nest cave, and still to this day are tending to the now historical young condor SB#610. This is a 3-dimensional 1st by being the first ever successful raising of a chick by a trio of birds in both wild or captive populations of condors (a trio of condors hatched an egg in the wilds of CA in the past but never reared it past 7-10 days by lack of feeding it); the first ever chick to hatch on the Kaibab Plateau in AZ, and the first 600 level studbook bird in our population (the latter lacks true importance, but to us condor folk, it is fun to point out). This nesting location is in a very accessible location for our biologists to observe, making the whole process that much more significant by allowing us to document every stage from egg to fledging (said with fingers crossed)."
More recently, The Peregrine Fund (TPF) staff posted this happy report on their "Condor Cliffs" Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CondorCliffs:
"The trio-chick, condor 610, has successfully fledged! TPF biologist Julia Nadal observed 610 take multiple long lasting and controlled flights on Thursday 27-Oct-2011.Congrats trio! (even though we never thought we would be saying that)."
Check out the Condor Cliffs link to see a photo of #610 in soaring flight!
The Battleship chick (#634) had not fledged yet as of October 31, but its time is coming too. Grand Canyon National Park biologist Jean Lawrence reports:"The condor team has been regularly receiving telemetry signals and visual sightings from 280 and 234. Chick #634 has recently been seen on Sunday, Oct 30 and Monday, Oct 31 with a full crop. Wing flapping, preening and sunbathing have been the primary activities."
Condor Volunteer Bob George adds of this chick that "it's been jumping around flapping its wings like mad, getting itself ready."(The Pipe Creek chick's nest cave mouth had been too narrow to allow this typical pre-fledging behavior, which may have somehow contributed to that chick's fatal fall.)The Battleship chick is thought to have hatched more than a month after the Trio chick. Also we have in the past had one Arizona chick fledge as late as December 22 or 23 (although Thanksgiving-ish is more typical), so patience may be in order.
Fatalities and Releases:
I am sorry to report that three Arizona/Utah condors have been declared dead since mid-July, including two that had fledged in the wild.#558, last year's Vermilion Cliffs fledgling, which was expected to be caught and tagged shortly, has been missing since early summer and is now presumed dead.Six-year-old male 387/tag C7 and 3-year-old male 476/tag H6, who was the 2008 Grandeur Point chick of 133F/33 and 187M/87, both went missing this spring.Over the summer, hikers found feathers, bones and tags for both birds in remote parts of southern Utah, but it was too late for a conclusive necropsy to determine cause of death. [69-3=66 wild condors.]
Eddie Feltes had this to say about the year's fatalities-ten of them not counting the recent death of the Pipe Creek chick-in his September 1 "Notes from the Field" posting:
On a happier note, five young condors have been released into the wild since my last update.On September 24, three young females were released publicly from the Vermilion Cliffs: 496/H9 (a 3-year-old from the Oregon Zoo), 516/J6 (a 2-year-old also from Portland), and 521/J1 (a 2-year-old from The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho).Then on October 14, two-year-old condors 523/J3 (a male from Boise) and 528/28 (a female from Portland) were also released. [66+5=71 wild condors in AZ/UT as of this writing, including one chick and one fledgling.]
"In this past year we have recorded our highest losses of free-flying condors to date, with almost all of them due to lead poisoning. And for those that went missing during the months of highest lead-exposure- the harsh winter months following the big game hunting seasons, lead is a major suspect for those mortalities."
A Condor Talk is offered daily at 3:00 p.m. through November 30 at Lookout Studio on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.By this time of year we only occasionally see condors at the talks, since it is deer and elk hunting season and the majority of the Arizona/Utah birds are seeking out gut piles left by hunters north of the park on the Kaibab National Forest and in southern Utah.But there is always a chance of a condor showing up, or being spotted way down below the rim at the Redwall level where both the Battleship and Pipe Creek nest caves are located.
Ms. Marker Marshall
Grand Canyon National Park