Arizona's 13th baby condor hatches with help of three 'parent' birds
Biologists have confirmed that Arizona's 13th endangered California condor chick hatched in the wild at a nest site near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, northeast of the Grand Canyon.
One female and two males shared incubation duties and are now brooding and feeding the new chick.
While having three adults involved in courtship behavior is not particularly unusual, this is the first time a trio has produced a chick in the history of the recovery program.
Biologists began monitoring the site several months ago after discovering the parents engaged in courtship and nesting behaviors. Visual confirmation of an egg was made Feb. 24 and a chick was noted April 22.
"Each wild hatchling gives us confidence that condors are well on their way to recovery," said Chris Parish, condor project director for The Peregrine Fund in Arizona.
This is the 13th chick hatched in the wild since condors were first released in Arizona in 1996. Nine remain a part of the wild population.
The new chick is expected to take its first flight and join the rest of the wild flock in six months. It will remain dependent on its parents for approximately 18 months.
The adult condors all hatched at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey (Center), located in Boise, Idaho. One of the males is 13 years old. The other male and the female are 10 years old.
The Peregrine Fund produces additional condor chicks in captivity at the Center and transfers the chicks to Arizona as part of a cooperative conservation program by federal, state, and private partners.
The newest member of the species brings the total number of California condors in the world to 375. Of those, 194 are in the wild, with 74 in the Arizona-Utah population. In the 1980s, the population had plunged to just 22.
"The greatest obstacle to a self-sustaining population of California condors continues to be lead poisoning, the leading cause of death," Parish said.
Condors ingest lead fragments after eating carrion and entrails from animals that have been shot with lead ammunition. The bullets disperse dozens of tiny particles of lead as small as a grain of salt throughout the animal. These particles are enough to cause lead toxicity in condors when they scavenge on the remains.
Since 2005, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has offered a voluntary non-lead ammunition program for hunters in northern Arizona, the condors' core range. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources began a similar program to benefit condors that have expanded their foraging range to Zion National Park and surrounding areas.
Other partners in the condor reintroduction program in Arizona include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Kaibab National Forest.
Prior to reintroduction, the last wild condor in Arizona was sighted just south of the Grand Canyon in 1924.
Condors reach maturity at about 6 years of age. They usually produce one egg every other year.
The condor is the largest land bird in North America. The birds can weigh as much as 26 pounds and have a wingspan as wide as 9 1/2 feet.
Condors were added to the federal Endangered Species List in 1967.
For more information on condors, go online to the Peregrine Fund's website at www.peregrinefund.org, the Arizona Game and Fish Department website at www.azgfd.gov/condor, the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona.