— 8 September 2009
— in California Condor Restoration
As the summer months begin tapering off, the wild condor population is treated with a new source of food in the rugged backcountry of the region—deer and elk carcasses and their gut-piles that are added to the ecosystem by the first archery hunts of the year. We have already documented a handful of archery gut-piles that were fed upon by the birds, in just the first few days of the start of the archery hunts. This is a great, clean source of food for the wild population that the birds really seem to favor over the whole carcasses that need to be worked upon to get through the tough hide, although we have found a few whole-carcass sites that have had birds camped out on for several days so far.
Joell Brown and Chris Parish release Condor 187
With the start of the hunting seasons upon us, this is the time of year that we try to trap up the remaining birds in the population that may be stealth, having no functioning transmitter worn, so we can apply new transmitters allowing us to track the daily movements and recover any downed birds during the upcoming lead season. While in hand, we are also drawing blood and performing a blood-lead test in the field just in case the feeding on a contaminated carcass slipped under our radar, allowing us to treat the bird if the need were present. To date all of the blood-lead levels have been low so far and at releasable levels, which is common to see during the summer months in this population. We are also trapping special target birds that have been chosen as perfect candidates to wear one of the new GPS transmitters that we just received; chosen due to their tendencies to roam far and wide in range and most likely to become stricken with lead poisoning due to their ability to seek out non-proffered food sites and their dominance at carcasses when feeding. One such bird, 11 year-old male Condor 187, was trapped on 24 August 2009 and fitted with a new transmitter with the assistance of Joell Brown and Pat Burnham who happened to be visiting from our Boise offices en route to other business here in Arizona.
The use of GPS transmitters on the population allows data to be processed via a daily internet download, allowing us to view movement patterns of certain birds. Seven year-old female Condor 280 in particular, has made a few foraging flights to the Bryce Canyon area of southern Utah, and even further north of Bryce Canyon to the FishLake National Forest in Utah with a few other birds a few weeks ago. These are major movements that we as biologists like to document, because they are out of the general range area that we see utilized and over time we may see patterns develop that can be of great help in management of this population. The use of these state-of-the-art GPS transmitters make this all possible.
Biologists Matt Podolsky and Eddie Feltes apply a new
radio transmitter to a young condor
On the breeding front, we have been observing the wild chick of the Vermilion Cliffs pair, Condors 126F and 114M, daily and have seen young Condor 515 getting more and more active around the nest cave site. This young bird has even dropped from the safety of the nest cave to a ledge below the cave approximately five meters down the wall. The ledge offers enough shade and safety from any predators as it is still very high on a sheer wall inhibiting any ground predators access. This young condor is showing great feather development and is exhibiting perfect growth and behavior for a bird of his/her age. The development of the other wild chick in the Tapeats area has not been observed as frequently as the Vermilion Cliffs’ chick, due to logistics of the nest cave site, but stay tuned for next month’s NFTF as we report any observations we have made. Until next time…
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