California Condor

Location: Devils Gate, Los Padres N.F.

Camera Host: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Find more about Weather in Hopper Mountain NWR, CA

July 19, 2017

Devils Gate Chick Stays Cool in the Heat

When watching the California Condor chick, you may have noticed that it sometimes defecates on its feet. While it might not be the most inviting process, it's actually an important thermoregulatory behavior that helps the bird cool off in sweltering temperatures! Known as urohydrosis, this behavior lowers the temperature of the blood that's circulating through the bird's feet and back up to its body. Urohydrosis isn't common in the bird world; only a select few species—including storks, vultures, and boobies–are known to use it as a cooling mechanism. Here, the Devils Gate condor chick cools off before some summer fun in the nest area! 

July 17, 2017

Male Condor #206 Preens Chick After Feeding

After stopping by the Devils Gate nest for a feeding, the male condor spent some time preening the back of his snorting chick. Social interactions between chicks and adults often follow feeding bouts, with mutual preening, neck twining, and head rubbing as some of the most common behaviors.  

July 11, 2017

Devils Gate Condor Chick Preens, Plays With Plant

At just over 90 days old, the condor chick is taking interest in many things around the nest area—most notably the surrounding vegetation! 

July 19, 2017

Devils Gate Chick Stays Cool in the Heat

When watching the California Condor chick, you may have noticed that it sometimes defecates on its feet. While it might not be the most inviting process, it's actually an important thermoregulatory behavior that helps the bird cool off in sweltering temperatures! Known as urohydrosis, this behavior lowers the temperature of the blood that's circulating through the bird's feet and back up to its body. Urohydrosis isn't common in the bird world; only a select few species—including storks, vultures, and boobies–are known to use it as a cooling mechanism. Here, the Devils Gate condor chick cools off before some summer fun in the nest area! 

July 17, 2017

Male Condor #206 Preens Chick After Feeding

After stopping by the Devils Gate nest for a feeding, the male condor spent some time preening the back of his snorting chick. Social interactions between chicks and adults often follow feeding bouts, with mutual preening, neck twining, and head rubbing as some of the most common behaviors.  

July 11, 2017

Devils Gate Condor Chick Preens, Plays With Plant

At just over 90 days old, the condor chick is taking interest in many things around the nest area—most notably the surrounding vegetation! 

April 11

Condor Egg Hatches!

After a long 50 days of incubation, the Devils Gate condor egg hatched successfully. 

March 03

Cause of Condor Chick #815's Death Is Undetermined, Likely Predation

After careful examination and testing by the USFWS, the definitive cause of condor #815’s death remains unclear. Scavenging that occurred prior to the recovery of the chick’s body obscured any signs of trauma or disease that may have given signs to the cause of the bird’s death. According to the results of the necropsy examination, the possibilities that remain for the cause of death include a fall from height, disease, or predation, with predation being the most likely considering the bird’s recent history of normal flight activity. An important clarification is that the lead levels in the chick’s liver and bone – which indicate lifetime exposure – were below levels that would have required treatment, which indicates that lead poisoning was not the cause of death. Some microtrash was present in the bird’s stomach but was unlikely to have contributed to the bird’s death. The loss of the chick was certainly saddening, but the outcome of this necropsy is promising from a conservation perspective. These results, combined with climbing fledge rate of the California Condor population, are a promising sign that nest conservation efforts to reduce chick mortality from microtrash ingestion and lead poisoning are working. We hope this news provides some closure for viewers, as it has for us. We plan on continuing with another Condor Cam in 2017 to help spread awareness and educate viewers even more about the magnificent and endangered California Condor. Stay tuned to the Cam News section for more info regarding announcements about the upcoming season, and sign up for our eNews to be notified when the cam goes live->  More...

February 21

Devils Gate Pair Lay Egg

The Devils Gate pair laid their first egg, which was determined to be fertile by researchers.  

California Condor

Cliff

Nest Placement

Condors nest mainly in natural cavities or caves in cliffs, though they sometimes also use trees, such as coast redwood and, historically, the giant sequoia. (As the wild population grows, there is the possibility they may return to the sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada.) Condors have multiple nesting sites and may switch sites between years. Females make the final decision on which nest location to use.

Nest Description

Condors lay their eggs directly on the dirt floor of a cliff ledge or cave, or they construct loose piles of debris from whatever is available at the nest site, such as gravel, leaves, bark, and bones. Nests have loosely defined boundaries and are usually about 3 feet across and up to 8 inches deep.

Clutch Size

1-0 eggs

Incubation Period

53-60 days

Nestling Period

163-180 days

Egg Description

Pale blue-green bleaching to white or creamy.

Condition at Hatching

Helpless, covered in white down with eyes open.

Carrion

Food

California Condors eat carrion of land and marine mammals such as deer, cattle, pigs, rabbits, sea lions, and whales. They swallow bone chips and marine shells to meet their calcium needs. They favor small to medium-sized carcasses, probably because smaller bones are easily consumed and digested. Condors locate carcasses with their keen eyesight (not by smell) by observing other scavengers assembled at a carcass. Once they land they take over the carcass from smaller species, but they are tolerant of each other and usually feed in groups. Condors are wary of humans while feeding, which is probably why they do not use roadkill as a food source. In captivity, condors consume 5–7 percent of their body mass per day to maintain their weight, but because their crop (an enlarged part of the esophagus) can hold 3 pounds of food, they may only have to eat every 2–3 days. Young are fed by regurgitation.

Typical Voice

Condors are usually silent, but can issue a variety of hisses and snorts particularly when defending nest sites. Newborn chicks hiss, wheeze, and grunt at adults.more sounds

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Nest

This condor nest, known as the Devils Gate nest, is located in the Los Padres National Forest, near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. The parents of the chick in the Devils Gate nest are mom #513 and dad #206. Dad #206 hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1999 and mom #513 hatched at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise Idaho in 2009. This is their third nesting attempt together but they have yet to successfully fledge a chick.

About the Condor Recovery Project

California Condors are critically endangered; they are on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action. They are also listed as Endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. All of the more than 400 condors now alive are descended from 27 birds that were brought into captivity in the early 1980s, in a controversial but successful captive breeding program.

As of 2014, there were more than 230 individuals in the wild in California, Arizona, and Baja California. The number has been rising steadily each year, as captive-bred birds are released and wild pairs fledge young from their own nests. More than 160 additional condors live in captivity at breeding programs or on exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, World Center for Birds of Prey, Phoenix Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo. Condors have benefited greatly from the Endangered Species Act and from aggressive efforts to breed them in captivity and re-release them into the wild, but the survival of the species is still dependent on human intervention.

The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is a multi-entity effort, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to recover the endangered California Condor. Partners in condor recovery include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Utah Department of Fish and Wildlife, the federal government of Mexico, Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Oakland Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Ventana Wildlife Society, Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Yurok Tribe, and a host of other governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

The Recovery Program is now in the final phase of recovery, focusing on the creation of self-sustaining populations. The Program is placing increased emphasis on the captive-breeding and reintroduction of California Condors to the wild and the management of that wild population. These efforts combine trying to reduce the threat of lead with actively managing nesting in the wild to increase the number of wild-fledged chicks.

The goal of the California Condor Recovery Plan is to establish two geographically distinct self-sustaining populations, each with 150 birds in the wild and at least 15 breeding pairs, with a third population of condors retained in captivity. As the Recovery Program works toward this goal, the number of release sites has grown. There are three active release sites in California, one in Arizona, and one in Baja California, Mexico.

Acknowledgements

The effort to create a livestreaming cam on a wild condor nest could not have happened without the effort, funding, and expertise of a wide consortium of collaborators.