California condor that helped save species back in the wild

This March 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Condor Chick Feeding at San Diego Zoo (VNR) … Wesa hatched to parents AC-4 and Mexwe.

From Associated Press in the USA:

California condor that helped save species returns to wild


Dec. 31, 2015 4:40 PM EST

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Banking into the wind and then gliding out of sight, a male California condor flew back into the wild after a captive breeding program that helped save North America’s largest species of land bird.

The 35-year-old bird named AC-4 soared out of his open pen earlier this week at a canyon rim inside the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, in central California’s Kern County. He had been one of just 23 condors left in the world in the 1980s.

It was the bird’s first free flight since 1985, when a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service team captured him near the same spot. It was part of a last-ditch attempt to stop the extinction of the California condor, which has a wing span of more than 9 feet.

AC-4 needed only a few minutes to get his bearings before flying out of the pen and over the canyon, said Joseph Brandt, a lead condor biologist with the wildlife service. Brandt was sitting on a hilltop nearby to watch the release.

“He kind of flew right past us. It was really incredible,” Brandt said by telephone Thursday.

Lead poisoning is believed one of the main factors that drove California condors toward extinction. The birds ingest fragments of lead bullets when they feed on carcasses of animals shot by hunters.

California lawmakers voted in 2013 to phase out lead bullets for hunting by 2019.

Biologists believe AC-4 was 5 to 7 years old when they captured him for the captive breeding program. He fathered the first chick born in the program, giving the program’s founders greater hope they could save the species.

In all, AC-4 sired 30 condor chicks that have been successfully released into the wild.

“Many people have poured their heart and soul” into saving the condors, Jesse Grantham, a former condor program coordinator and part of the original team that captured AC-4, said in a statement from the wildlife service.

This year, biologists recorded 19 wild condor nests in central and Southern California, more nests than at any point this century, Brandt said.

Condors can live up to 60 years in the wild and mate for life, Brandt said. Biologists hope AC-4, which they have tagged for tracking, will pick a mate before the courting season ends this winter, he said.

15 thoughts on “California condor that helped save species back in the wild

  1. Pingback: Unusual bird species | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Wild female California Condor #111 is a mom again. It’s one of those touching stories of life carrying on despite a string of losses. This female, along with her mate, #509, lost their own egg this season (probably to a predator) and their chick last season died of lead poisoning. A ready-to-hatch incubator egg from the California Condor Recovery Program’s captive breeding effort at Los Angeles Zoo was tucked under #111 over the weekend (watch highlight) and the hatching got underway.

    By late morning April 4, the chick was about half-way out of the egg. And for the first time in history, anyone with an Internet connection could watch a wild California Condor egg hatch by viewing a live camera focused on this nest in a cave at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California. The camera was made live for the public on hatching day by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with partners, including the Cornell Lab. Watch Cam.

    “We’re anxious and excited to not only be able to share this experience with the world, but also to open up the opportunity for more people to learn about California Condors, what makes them such remarkable birds, and the threats they face in the wild,” said Joseph Brandt, condor biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Brandt will answer questions about the condor nest from the public during an online live streamed video chat hosted by Cornell Lab on its Bird Cams website on April 14, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time/1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

    The 22-year-old female (#111) and her 7-year-old mate (#509) are incubating an egg that was produced as part of the California Condor Recovery Program’s captive breeding effort at Los Angeles Zoo. The pair’s own egg disappeared in March, possibly taken by a predator. Biologists put a dummy egg in the nest so that the parents would continue to incubate. On April 3, the captive-bred egg was placed into the nest.

    This Hopper Mountain NWR condor pair have been together since fall 2014, and hatched their first chick in April 2015. Four months later, that chick died from lead poisoning, one of the most serious human-related threats condors continue to face in the wild.

    “The chick was either compromised from ingesting lead fragments in his food, leading to increased vulnerability to predators, or he died of lead toxicity,” says Estelle Sandhaus of the Santa Barbara Zoo. Based on necropsy results biologists say the most likely cause of death was an acute case of lead poisoning, the number one cause of death for wild California Condors.

    In 1982 the California Condor population dropped to only 22 birds. Thanks to intensive, ongoing recovery efforts by multiple public and private partners, including a captive breeding program, the California Condor population has grown to around 430 birds worldwide, with more than half of the population flying free.


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