— 10 November 2008
— in California Condor Restoration
Greetings NFTF readers! Our newest releases, Condors 383 and 384, have been doing great. Both birds have needed minimal monitoring from our field crew since the first week they were out as free-flying condors. Just after my last NFTF posting, young Condor 384 made it to our proffered feeding site and cropped up, and she has made a healthy routine of it ever since. This was a huge sigh of relief, enabling us to dedicate the majority of our monitoring to the rest of the population as the fall hunting seasons approached.
During hunting seasons, our crew is spread pretty thin tracking the population all over the Kolob region of southern Utah and the Kaibab Plateau in Arizona, keeping tabs on movement and foraging locations to hopefully head off any serious lead exposures that arise during the big game rifle seasons in the forest. Coincidentally, this is also a perfect time to release new condors into the population, as the majority of the adult birds are away from the release site, allowing these young and subordinate birds to gain confidence and routine in feeding and roosting safely away from ground dwelling predators. And when the territorial disputes take place, as the breeding season sets in during the winter months and the adults start to jostle for new positions in the hierarchy, these new birds have a slight edge from experience that only benefits them in seasons to come. In fact, at the time of this writing, we are getting ready to release two more young condors, Condors 409 and 414, later this week. Visit next months NFTF to get an update on how these two young birds are doing as free-flying condors.
Condor 472 in nest cave entrance.
We have also had an interesting series of events in monitoring the two wild nests that are located in the Grand Canyon. On 11 September, NPS Biologist Rosa Palarino was observing the nest cave of Condors 133F and 187M, when she set up the scope to get a closer look, she was amazed to finally see the chick perched in the nest cave entrance! The young bird sat and preened for a few minutes, then started a wing-begging frenzy as Condor 187 approached for a feeding. And just two weeks later, crew member Evan Buechley observed the young bird, Condor 476, 60 meters below the nest cave. At just 157 days of age, this young bird fledged from the nest cave; earlier than the expected fledge date of 180 days for young condors. But this is just an average age for fledging, as the logistics of the nest cave itself, weather conditions, raven activity, ect., all can contribute to when a young bird actually decides to leave and take flight. So the small entrance to the cave, seems to be the most probable reason for the early departure, as these young condors really like to test out their wings and legs as they approach fledging age. And since leaving the nest cave, both NPS and Peregrine Fund biologists have observed the bird doing great, remaining in the same general vicinity of the nest cave, and taking short flights on the large wall of the Grand Canyon.
Neil Paprocki observing Condor 472 in the Salt Creek nest.
The other condor chick, young Condor 472, belonging to pair 127F and 123M, has also fledged from the Salt Creek nest cave high in the red-wall layer of the Grand Canyon interior. Crew member Neil Paprocki reported the fledging of the chick on 16 October 2008, after making the 24-mile round trip hike to the observation canyon. Both parent condors were exhibiting a change in behavior that prompted us to investigate the situation via a long backpacking trip. And once he got all set up in the canyon, Neil first observed the chick directly below the nest cave, perched on a pinnacle, above the talus slope. The young bird was observed taking a few 8-10 minute flights, as well as being fed by one parent while Neil was observing. This is the third condor produced, and fledged by this pair, from the same nest cave each time; and these are the 8th and 9th condors to be produced in the wild from this population to date.
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