Science

Two Critically Endangered California Condors Spotted Near Zion National Park

The sighting of two rare, critically endangered California Condor nests has been confirmed in southwestern Utah’s Zion National Park, an event celebrated by wildlife experts.

It is the first time that biologists have observed multiple condor nests in the same breeding season.

The first nest confirmed by Zion National Park biologists is believed to have hatched around April 16 and is located near a popular hiking trail, Angel’s Landing.

This nest was active in 2019 when the young condor known as California Condor 1,000 successfully fledged, a stage between birth and being able to fly.

It’s back in use by the same pair of adult condors, a pronunciation from The Peregrine Fund, a non-profit organization specializing in the conservation of endangered and threatened birds.

Two Critically Endangered California Condor Nests Spotted in Southwestern Utah’s Zion National Park

The first nest confirmed by Zion National Park biologists is believed to have hatched around April 16 and is located near a popular hiking trail, Angel's Landing.

The first nest confirmed by Zion National Park biologists is believed to have hatched around April 16 and is located near a popular hiking trail, Angel’s Landing.

The second nest hatched around May 11 and is located on Bureau of Land Management land east of the national park

The second nest hatched around May 11 and is located on Bureau of Land Management land east of the national park

The new condor nestling is known as California Condor 1111 and is expected to fledge in mid-October. Once the bird can fly, it will spend about two years with its parents before becoming fully independent.

“We were pleased to learn that the breeding pair in Zion chose to re-nest in the cave at Angels Landing because the location offers exceptional condor viewing opportunities and allows for an excellent learning experience for visitors,” Janice Stroud-Settles, Wildlife Program Manager at Zion National Park, said.

“The condor nesting was quickly confirmed thanks to the hard work of Zion’s dedicated condor volunteers, who watch the nesting activity almost daily while sharing their knowledge and passion about condors and condor recovery with park visitors.”

The second nest hatched around May 11 and is located on Bureau of Land Management land east of the national park, which attracts some 3.5 million visitors annually.

“This is the first nest attempt for the adult female, studbook number 801, and we were surprised to see the mating,” said Tim Hauck, program manager for the Peregrine Fund.

“The female is only six years old and although condors can breed at five to six years old, on average they don’t succeed until they are eight years old.”

The six-year-old female condor from the Zion National Park pair is pictured atop a rock

The six-year-old female condor from the Zion National Park pair is pictured atop a rock

Biologists were also surprised that the male was a 10-year-old condor going “single” in the mating season, leading to some concern that he wouldn’t find a mate.

“We were lucky to have this pair nestled in a spot with a good vantage point,” Hauck said. “It can be very difficult to see inside a condor nest because they are usually in caves, high up on the side of cliffs. Fortunately, at this particular location, we had a good eye-level vantage point from which we could see inside the nest and identify the nest with our telescope.’

In the 1980s, the California Condor population dropped to just 22, although the California Condor Recovery Program, introduced in 1979, helped save the species from extinction.

In 1987, the last free-flying bird was captured and integrated into the captive breeding program.

Five years later, captive-bred condors were released into the wild at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura, California, according to Audubon.

As of this month, there are more than 100 condors in northern Arizona and southern Utah, and more than 500 around the world, numbers showing the programs are working, officials said.

“We are encouraged to see condors taking advantage of the good nesting habitats here in southwestern Utah, which only increases the chances of recovery,” said Keith Day, a wildlife biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

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