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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
September 2006
Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration    ShareGreetings, Notes from the Field readers! Fall is clearly upon us in northern Arizona; the days are becoming cooler, the nights cold, and the leaves are changing in the mountains. The condors began changing their patterns slightly in relation to the seasonal progression last month, moving around a bit more frequently from the high elevation regions of southern Utah and Grand Canyon National Park. They are still spending quite a bit of time in those areas, but have been increasingly traveling to the Kaibab Plateau, the Colorado River corridor upriver of the Grand Canyon, and the release site in Vermilion Cliffs.

Those that returned to the release site in mid-September arrived to find that three new condors had joined their population. On 12 September, we released Condors 334, 371, and 387, bringing the total condor population in Arizona up to 61 individuals. We were also able to re-release Condor 314, who had recently received treatment for lead poisoning.

We always observe new birds very closely following their release, making sure that they are feeding adequately, integrating well into the free-flying population, and choosing appropriate locations in which to roost at night. The latter may be most challenging at first, as captive-bred birds have spent the first year or two of their lives in flight pens, never having to fly more than twenty feet to get to a good perch. In the wild, however, a young condor may find itself at the base of a thousand-foot cliff in heavy winds, with little muscular development or experience at using air currents to get itself into the air. This can be quite dangerous for the condors, as a bird that roosts on the ground on the cliff rim or the accessible slopes below is at risk from a variety of predators at night, most notably coyotes. Therefore, we spend quite a bit of time in the first couple of weeks after a release hiking up steep talus slopes, chasing birds onto inaccessible ledges on the cliff face. They quickly learn to tell the difference between the safe locations and the dangerous ones, and as their flight skills develop, we have to worry less and less about where they choose to sleep.

Although we did quite a bit of this intensive management with our three new releases in September, the birds caught on very quickly, and were flying like old hands by the end of the month. All three have also begun feeding regularly and exploring the area around the release site. They seem to taking very well to their new status as wild birds!

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