Hello Condor Enthusiasts,
Most of the information in this document comes from The Peregrine Fund's "Condor Cliffs" Facebook page at facebook.com/condorcliffs, which gets updated as to the latest breeding news much more frequently than I can keep up with! Condor Cliffs is the BEST resource for keeping up on the condors of Arizona/Utah, and is the best place to post condor sightings, too. Peruse Condor Cliffs and you'll see that the Navajo Bridge on Highway 89A at Marble Canyon, AZ, has been the surest place to spot condors lately. As usual, highlights are in bold.
Population numbers from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, as of February 29, 2012:
386 - World Total (may be somewhat higher; a few eggs should have hatched in March or April)
173 - Captive Population (including birds temporarily in captivity)
213 - Wild Population
118 - California
18 - Baja California, Mexico
71 - Arizona/Utah 77 (now 79)
The Arizona/Utah numbers are up from 71 as of my last update in December. Nine birds have been released into the wild at Vermilion Cliffs during February and March. But three condors-all of them of breeding age-have also died of lead poisoning during the same period.
We lost female 314/tag -4 in February. She was nearly 9 years old and thought to have made an unsuccessful breeding attempt with male 287/-7 in the Great Thumb area of Grand Canyon in 2011, so this leaves him without a mate. We also lost female 253/53 in February. She was nearly 11 years old, and unmated since her Marble Canyon nest failed last April when her mate also died of lead poisoning. The most recent fatality was male 246/46. He was of breeding age (turning 11 this spring) but had not yet attempted a nest.
For those new to these updates,lead poisoning is THE most frequent cause of death of the condors in Arizona/Utah. As carrion feeders, they pick it up from the remains of game animals such as deer that were shot with lead ammunition. The Arizona Game and Fish Department's web site has a lot of good information on switching to non-lead ammunition.
Since most of the condors spend more time in Utah than in Arizona these days, it's fortunate that the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is also working to get information out about lead, and has a rebate program available for hunters in the Zion unit who buy non-lead ammunition.
Arizona Breeding Season News:
Last year's two fledglings, #610 from the "trio" nest and #634 from a nest in the Battleship formation within the Grand Canyon, are both doing great. Condor 610 now wears a blank tag on its left wing. 634 won't be tagged (or vaccinated for West Nile Virus, or tested for blood lead levels) until it ventures as far as The Peregrine Fund's release site in the Vermilion Cliffs, about 50 miles away from its Battleship nest cave - maybe this summer?
Five nests have been confirmed so far this spring, four of them still active as of recent reports. The nesting pairs are as follows:
- Experienced breeders 126F/26 and 114/tagless are thought to have laid in a new cave near their usual one in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on February 7, the earliest lay date yet in Arizona. Their egg should have hatched on April 4, and as of April 6 there was no indication that it hadn't.
- Female 296/tag -6 and Male 266/tag 66, who nested unsuccessfully in the Vermilion Cliffs last year, are trying again. They are thought to have laid on February 16, so their hatch date should be April 13 if all goes well.
- Female 346/tag A6 and male 158/tag 58 made a nesting attempt on the Kaibab plateau but their nest failed after one week of incubation.
- Female 133/tag 33 and male 187/tag 87 have returned to their old nest cave in the Grand Canyon below Grandeur Point, where they are thought to have laid the first week of March.
- Female 302/tag 02 and male 273/tag 73 are a pair of first-time nesters, and have established the first nest yet in Glen Canyon, between Lees Ferry and the Glen Canyon Dam.
Park Ranger Condor Talks:
Condor Talks are being offered daily at 3:00 p.m. at Lookout Studio on Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim. So far this spring it's been rare to see a condor at the program, although they are being seen here and there in the park most days. Once the weather warms up to where north-facing cliffs at 7,000 feet are appealing roosting spots for condors, the incidence of condor sightings at the program should increase.
Updated Condor Chart:
I've updated the chart of California Condors in AZ/UT by Tag # as of April 10, 2012, You may download it here (88kb pdf file)
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly the San Diego Wild Animal Park) has a webcam on one of their condor chicks, which hatched on March 10, 2012.
Enjoy the spring, and good luck spotting some condors!
Ms. Marker Marshall
Grand Canyon National Park