California condors lose most of their adults to predators

The last two California condors born in the wild were killed by predators when they were a little less than an egg shell old. But a pair of chicks, found nesting in a housing…

The last two California condors born in the wild were killed by predators when they were a little less than an egg shell old. But a pair of chicks, found nesting in a housing development in California’s San Joaquin Valley — the most northerly area for condors on the planet — aren’t experiencing much adversity in their early years. “Adult condors don’t check out homes very often because the condors are extremely social,” said Josh Saenz, director of the California Condor Recovery Program. “They nest together, they travel together, they play together. And the adults have an allergy to humans who come into their territory.” One by one, all of the older condors’ nests collapsed and died. Only one male surviving female left to care for the baby ones, and she’s coming off 10 years of maternity leave to do so.

The mother couldn’t find a mate, and had to be hand reared by a flock of condors before she was rescued and released into the wild as a 20-year-old female with young chicks.

California condors are known for their iconic call. Their female condor can carry up to 8 eggs at a time, and males make elaborate flight plans by eating insects, closely following “flying puzzles” used to trace flight paths, and doing free-flowing hip thrusts and flight flips.

They’re roughly the size of a turkey vulture, and live about 40 years in the wild. The last male to successfully incubate eight eggs was recorded in 1995, and by 2004, the last adult condor had died. Now the California condor population is estimated at between 280 and 360.

A sliver of hope rests in this bold young mom. “California condors are some of the most endangered birds in the world,” said Saenz. “Any successful chick we get is really an unexpected bright spot.”

Read the full story in National Geographic.

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