San Diego Zoo Global was given permission to begin the first captive propagation program for California condors in the 1980s - when there were only about 22 birds left in the world. Destruction of habitat, poaching, and lead poisoning was wiping out these majestic birds. San Diego Zoo Global's California condor program has provided hope for the future of these birds, having succeeded in hatching 165 chicks and releasing 80 birds into the wild.
How can you tell California condor males and females apart?
Males tend to be slightly larger, but still can be difficult to differentiate from the females. We send a blood or feather sample to the lab for testing. Here at the Safari Park we generally tag only the males. That way we can easily tell them apart. Tags = male. No tags = female.
What do the numbers on the wing tags mean?
Even though we may give names to the condors here at the Safari Park, all of them are also identified by a studbook number. The last one or two digits of the studbook number are printed on the tags. In the wild, these tags make it easier for the field biologists to identify individual birds.
What is the lifespan of a California condor?
The estimate is approximately 50 to 60 years, but we don't know for sure. The oldest confirmed condor lives at the Los Angeles Zoo and is 45 years old. He is still of reproductive age.
Do they mate for life?
They are monogamous and, once established, pair for life. However, if a pair has too many unsuccessful breeding attempts, one may seek out a new mate that could increase the chances of a successful nesting attempt.
How many eggs do they lay?
Condors have only one egg in their nest. If that egg is lost (predation, accident, etc.), the female may lay a replacement egg approximately a month later.
Do condors build a nest?
Condors nest in cavities. In the wild, these cavities can be caves, rock piles, or holes in very large trees, like sequoias or redwoods. Here at the Safari Park, we provide an elevated nest box. They don't add any nesting material. They lay their eggs directly on the substrate of dirt, pebbles, and woodchips.
How big are California condors?
Adult condors weigh between 16 and 25 pounds (7.2 to 11.3 kilograms), averaging around 20 pounds (9 kilograms). Their wingspan is approximately 9.5 feet (2.9 meters). They are the largest bird in North America.
What do they eat?
Condors are carrion feeders, not predators. They eat anything that is already dead, ranging
in size from mice to whales. Here at the Safari Park, depending on the day, they get rats, rabbits, beef spleen, trout, and ground meat. Although they are able to eat rancid meat, they prefer fresh food.
Are they endangered?
California condors are classified as critically endangered. In 1982, only 22 condors existed. Today there are over 400 birds in breeding facilities and in the wild. For the first time, there are more condors flying free than in zoos and breeding centers.
Why are they endangered?
Their main threat is environmental toxins, predominantly lead. When they eat animals that have been shot, they end up accidentally consuming the bullet/shot as well. Since lead is a very soft metal, it can be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in lead poisoning. Switching to lead-free ammunition can greatly aid the California condors' recovery.
Power-line collisions, indiscriminate shooting, museum and egg collecting have taken their toll over the years, as well.
Where are California condors released?
Condors are released at five different release sites. One release site is in northern Baja California, Mexico, in the Sierra San Pedro Martír National Park. Another is in northern Arizona at the Vermilion Cliffs, just north of Grand Canyon National Park. Three sites are in California: the Ventana Wilderness in Big Sur, Pinnacles National Monument, and near the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in the Los Padres National Forest, north of Los Angeles.
Scientist, Manager of CA Condor Recovery Program, Baja California, Mexico
Postdoctoral Fellow, CA Condor Recovery Program, Baja California, Mexico
Curator of Birds, San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Animal Care Manager, Condor Breeding Facility
Lead Keeper, Condor Breeding Facility
1981: Condorminium built. 1st breeding facility constructed as part of the California condor recovery program.
1982: The first California condor brought into a zoo as a part of the California Condor Recovery Program was brought to the Park after hatching.
1987: The last California condor remaining in the wild, called AC9, was brought to the Park. It was one of 27 condors remaining in the world. With the species extinct in the wild, one half of the world's population lived at the Park.
1988: The first chick to be conceived and hatched in a zoological facility occurs at the Safari Park's Condorminium.
1992: Two California condors are released into native California habitat in Los Angeles National Forest, marking the first time the species has been reintroduced back into the wild.
2002: The Park celebrates the 100th California condor hatched at the Condorminium.
2011: To date, 177 condors have hatched at the Safari Park.