These updates are from 2005, for current information visit our Updates Page.
October 14, 2005
All of the newly released condors are continuing to do well. They have integrated into the social structure of the birds that were released in October 2004. They are choosing safe roosting locations each night, and biologists do not have to monitor them as carefully as they did just after their release.
Condor 340 is making excellent progress with his flight skills. He accompanied an older condor to Coalinga, about 60 miles southeast of Pinnacles. 340 is one of the birds who wears a GPS transceiver, and biologists are able to download detailed information about his flight range.
September 30, 2005
The flight pen at Pinnacles is now empty for the first time since 2003. All of the juvenile condors have been released and are living in the wild. Hoi, the adult mentor condor who has lived in the flight pen at Pinnacles since 2003, has been transferred to the Los Angeles Zoo to serve as a mentor there.
All of the newly released birds are feeding very well, making good choices for roost and developing their flight skills quickly. In fact, most of the new birds have been making flights of up to twenty minutes.
345 and 351 were released on Monday, September 26. 351 roosted at the facility that night. 345 flew around quite a bit and roosted at the facility with 351 and 306.
335 and 336 left the flight pen on Friday, September 23. After 335 was released, he spent one night roosting on the ground but has otherwise done well and 336 has been a star from the start. She roosted in the roost pine on her first night out of the flight pen!
More chicks will be coming to Pinnacles in early 2006. If you're interested in attending one of our public release events, we'll be posting details about our next event as soon as we can.
September 23, 2005
Condor 335 was released from the flight pen this morning. He is one of the two condors in the third group who wears a GPS transciever, so biologists will be able to track his range each day when the data from the transceiver is downloaded.
The other three condors of the third group that were released at the public event are improving their flight skills. Last night, they roosted with the other six free-flying birds in a pine tree. All of the free-flying condors have been feeding together. This indicates that the newly released birds have shown good competitive abilities while feeding, which is a positive step towards integration into the group.
September 19, 2005
This first week is a crucial time for the newly released condors because their flight skills are weak. They have been making practice flights around the ridge, but they sometimes make a flight and then can't get back to where they started from.
On Saturday night, 330 and 340 did not leave the immediate area of the facility, and roosted on a snag just outside the double-door trap. Condor 332 explored a bit more than the others, and was not able to make it back to the ridgetop for the night. He tried to get into a tree down the hill from the flight pen, but he couldn't quite get there. He settled for a safe spot in a nearby snag.
On Sunday night, 330 took a short flight in the late afternoon and landed downhill from the flight pen. No trees were nearby, and 330 ended up roosting on the ground. Biologists spent the night nearby to flush away coyotes and other predators.
During the next couple of weeks, the newly released birds will develop the muscle structure and flight skills that they need to get into trees and other safe roosting spots at night. Once they are able to do this, biologists will be able to take a break from monitoring them so closely.
September 17, 2005
Three condors were released during a public release event on Saturday, Septemebr 17th at Pinnacles National Monument. Over three hundred people witnessed the first flights of condors 330, 332, and 340.
The birds left the double-door trap shortly after 10:00, and spent a few minutes on the ground before making short flights around the ridgetop near the flight pen that had been their home for the last few months. They were joined by 313, one of the condors who was released last year, soon after they left the flight pen.
During the next few weeks, the condors will be monitored closely to ensure that they stay out of the reach of predators such as coyotes and mountain lions. The most critical time will be when they choose their roosting spots in the evening. Biologists will be watching to make sure that the condors roost in trees. During the first release at Pinnacles in 2003, one of the birds had to be recaptured because it was roosting on the ground.
Four more California condors will be released over the next two weeks, joining six others that have been flying free since October 2004. Details about their progress as they begin their lives in the wild will be posted regularly; check back soon!
May 11, 2005
Two chicks recently arrived at Pinnacles from the Los Angeles Zoo. Condors 332 and 351 are both about a year old. They've joined six other chicks from the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Oregon Zoo in the Pinnacles flight pen, and all will be released sometime this summer or fall.
April 22, 2005
Second group – released 10/2004
The free-flying condors at Pinnacles are doing well and slowly expanding their range. In early April, 313 made a trip down to Bitterwater Road, and spent its first night alone outside the park. Since their release in October, four of the six birds have roosted outside the park, and 306 has spent a full week outside the monument’s boundaries. Only condors 312 and 317 have never left the park.
The second group of condors hasn’t been seen in the High Peaks as much as the first group, but many people have had luck seeing them from the Pinnacles Campground, which is just outside the east boundary of the monument. The best time to catch a glimpse of the birds is usually from 5:00 to 7:00 in the evening while they search for a good roosting location. Please keep in mind that the campground is only open to registered campers. If you’re not planning on camping, the nearby bench Trail would be a good alternative.
First group – released 12/03 and 01/04
Condors 278 and 286 have been released at Big Sur, and are adapting well into the social structure there. Read about their progress in the Ventana Wilderness Society's Notes from the Field (link).
Condors 266, 270, and 287 were transferred to Arizona. Read updates about them in the Peregrine Fund's Notes from the Field (link).
Only one condor from the first group to be released at Pinnacles remains in the park. Condor 265 has been living in the flight pen since he was retrapped in the spring of 2004 because of his close calls with hikers and climbers. 265 will be released this summer or fall.
Third group – to be released in summer or fall 2005
The first condor chick to ever hatch at the Oregon Zoo and four chicks from the San Diego Wild Animal Park have been transferred to Pinnacles and are living in the flight pen. Two more chicks were expected from the Los Angeles Zoo, but there’s a chance that they may remain in southern California.
The third Pinnacles condor release was tentatively scheduled for May, but has now been postponed until summer or fall. Details about the event will be posted as soon as they are finalized.
March 25, 2005
The younger condors have been seen in the High Peaks much more during the last month. Earlier this year, individuals had been seen there occasionally, but they are now traveling as a group and spending time exploring the peaks. Condor 286, one of the first birds to be released at Pinnacles, has been used over the past two months as a free-flying mentor for the younger birds. The younger condors have also been using a new feeding site.
Now that they’re exploring more of the park and feeding at the new site, 286 will be recaptured and transferred to Big Sur this week. He will join condor 278, another former Pinnacles bird, and they will be released in that area soon.
Another juvenile condor has arrived at Pinnacles and is adjusting well to life in the flight pen. Condor 340, a male from the Oregon Zoo, has joined four juveniles from the Hopper Mountain facility. Two more juvenile condors will be coming from the Los Angeles Zoo this spring. These six birds will be the third group of condors to be released at Pinnacles, most likely sometime in May.
The condor field crew recently put in some long hours repairing an opening in the flight pen. The mesh that makes up most of the pen is held up by a cable system, and the cable had pulled away from the frame that holds it in place. This caused a section of the mesh to sag down into the pen. The damage was repaired that evening, and the field crew is continuing to make modifications to the mesh to avoid another problem. The field staff generally works from 10 – 14 hours each day; the after-hours repairs to the flight pen have made their days even longer.
February 21, 2005
The last few months have been eventful for the Pinnacles condors. We’ve transferred some of our older birds to other release sites, and we continue to monitor newly-released condors as they develop their flying skills. Pinnacles has also become the home for more juvenile condors that are scheduled for release sometime this year.
Last summer, three of the original birds that were the first to be released here were seen perching on power poles near the monument. While the birds lived in the flight pen at Pinnacles, a mock power pole within the pen trained them to avoid power poles once they were released into the wild. This worked by delivering a mild shock to any bird that landed on it.
Biologists were surprised to find three birds landing on poles in August 2004, and quickly retrapped all of the older birds to prevent them from teaching the behavior to the younger birds that would be released in October. The mock pole in the pen was modified to more closely match the poles in the area surrounding Pinnacles.
Still, the chance that the condors would continue to land on the poles if they were re-released was still a major concern, and biologists decided to transfer five birds of the original group of six to release areas in Big Sur and Arizona. These sites have well established flocks, in which adult condors guide the behavior of the younger birds. Biologists believe that transferring condors from Pinnacles first cohort to these other release sites will break their behavioral pattern of perching on power poles.
Condor 278 has been transferred to the Big Sur area, and 286 will follow soon. 286 is currently being used as a free flying mentor for the younger condors released at Pinnacles in October 2004. Condors 287, 270, and 266 were transferred to Arizona in mid-February for release at the Vermillion Cliffs.
The only bird from the first group who will remain at Pinnacles is condor 265. He was originally released for only two months, after which time he was recaptured for approaching climbers in the High Peaks. Condor 265 did not land on power poles, and we plan to re-release him in late spring or early summer. He will hopefully serve as a free-flying mentor for the newly-released younger birds.
The younger condors are doing well and continue to hone their flying skills while exploring the monument and surrounding areas. They have generally stayed close to the release site, possibly to remain close to the older birds in the flight pen. With the re-release of condor 286 and the transfer of most of the older condors to other release areas, the younger birds have begun to expand their range.
When condor 286 was re-released, two of the younger free-flying birds traveled with him to the High Peaks and roosted there with him. All of the younger birds have traveled to the High Peaks at least once. Biologists are also hoping 286 will lead the second cohort condors from the temporary feeding site to use a semi-permanent feeding site.
In early February, four juvenile condors arrived at Pinnacles’ flight pen from the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in southern California. They are adjusting well to life in the flight pen. They were reared at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and the group is made up of three males and one female. Three more young birds should arrive at Pinnacles this spring, one from the Oregon Zoo and two from the Los Angeles Zoo. We plan to release the third cohort of seven condors sometime in 2005.