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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Winter 2008
Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration    ShareGreetings NFTF readers! The holiday season of 2008 has had our field crew on their toes managing the wild population of condors all throughout northern Arizona and southern Utah. Young Condors 383 and 384, our newest releases during my last writing, were doing perfectly for a few months, and then some bad luck struck for male Condor 384 in early December. Both birds were feeding, socializing, and roosting without flaw, enabling us to release out a few more new birds into the wild population. Then on 7 December 2008, while monitoring atop the Vermilion Cliffs at our release site, crew member Maria Dominguez noticed mortality signals from Condor 384’s transmitters. Immediately she hiked out and tracked down one signal to a transmitter that was still attached to just a wing remaining in the sand. She then placed the disheartening phone call and gave me the news. Just moments later we tracked down the other wing, several hundred meters away from the first, and then analyzed the scene to reveal what had happened as the undisturbed sand told the story—coyote predation while the bird was on the ground. This was an unfortunate loss, but still is the first natural predation mortality suffered since 2002.

Condor pair perched in a snag.
Condor pair perched in a snag.
Usually we are busy trapping up the wild birds during this time to test for blood-lead levels and change out old transmitters, but since the majority of the birds were yet to return back to the trapping site, we decided to spend our time releasing birds. On 8 November 2008 we released two new condors into the population- female Condors 409 and 414, both produced at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and best genetically fit for the Arizona population. Both birds required minimal interference from our biologists as they were integrating in with the rest of the birds at the release site. At the time of writing these two have not yet left the release site, and are doing great as wild condors.

Due to the increased demand of attention required from trapping and treating condors for lead poisoning/exposure, we have been unable to monitor the 2008 fledgling Condors, 472 and 476, on a daily basis. However, both birds have been monitored occasionally, still deep in the Grand Canyon, and appear to be doing just fine. We have been able to monitor the daily movements of male Condor 187 via GPS tracking of the bird, and he is, and has been, making consistent visits to young Condor 476’s location, still in the same general area as the nest cave. Both parent condors of Condor 472, Condors 127F and 123M, were able to be trapped the same day, and lead testing immediately showed them to be at releasable levels requiring no treatment and no breaking of feeding cycles for their offspring.

Male Condor 331
Male Condor 331
At the time of writing our trapping up of the entire 67 bird population is nearing an end. This season the birds remained away from the trapping site for a much longer period of time, and to date only 13 remain to be trapped and tested. Currently, as in years past, we are still having to treat a large portion of our wild population with chelation therapy for increased lead levels during the winter months, and the threat of lead poisoning remains the one significant road-block in establishing this species as a self-sustaining wild population.

The breeding season in condor range is heating up fast, as several birds are showing daily displays and copulations with prospective mates. The established pairing of Condors 126F and 114M is right on schedule to be establishing another nesting attempt in the Vermilion Cliffs with daily displays and copulations. Unpaired Condor 162M has taken a new liking to younger Condor 316F also in the Vermilion Cliffs, with routine displays and paired travel to and from the release site. Stay tuned to next month’s NFTF to see how the breeding season is going to look as activity reaches a peak during these next two months. . .

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