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Get Realtime Bird’s-Eye View of Condor Chick in Wild

Condor Cam offers glimpse at social interactions, parenting, growth and play of bird family

Live-streaming video of condor chicks goes out around the world
Live-streaming video of condor chicks goes out around the world (Santa Barbara Zoo)

For the third year in a row, the public has the opportunity to get up close and personal with an endangered California condor chick through live-streaming video of a California condor nest.

The chick, which is 50 days old as of May 31, and its parents live in the remote mountains near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Ventura County. The Condor Cam went live at 8 a.m. May 31.

“We are excited to share with the world another view into a California condor nest, and allow the public a glimpse into the day-to-day activities of these amazing birds,” said Joseph Brandt of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Hopper Mountain NWR.

“The live-streaming nest camera allows people from around the world to personally connect with these magnificent and endangered birds, and learn what is needed to save them,” said Brandt, a supervisory wildlife biologist.

The pair raising California condor chick #871 is 8-year-old female condor #513 and 18-year-old male condor #206. The pair used this same nest site in 2015; this is their third attempt at nesting together. This is their first year to be featured on the lives-treaming nest camera.

“Webcam viewers will see the rich social interactions of these intelligent birds, such as the two adults sharing parental duties, and their interactions with each other and the chick,” said Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, director of conservation and research at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

“Condor chicks actually engage in ‘play,’ by pouncing on and grabbing feathers and sticks, for instance. It’s a thrill to watch the chick grow, learn, and play under the watchful eyes of its dedicated parents,” she said.

Last year’s live-streaming video of a California condor chick hatching gained worldwide attention — nearly 1 million views from 150 countries and 19 million minutes, or 36 years of watch time.

"Last year's live condor cam at Koford’s Ridge gave tens of thousands of viewers across the world their first close up view of what it takes to raise a condor," said Charles Eldermire, bird camera project leader with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

"This year, we're excited to introduce a different condor family, trying for their first successful nest on the open cliffs of Devils Gate,” Eldermire said.

Unfortunately, the chick featured on last year’s nest camera died due to unknown causes, but biologists and other conservation partners are hopeful for a successful year of California condor breeding, with at least 11 active nests in California.

The number of California condors dropped dramatically in the mid-20th century, leading the USFWS to designate the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

By 1987, there were only 22 of the iconic birds left in the wild. Today, there are some 276 California condors living in the wild, with another 200 in captive breeding populations.

The birds do still face threats to their existence, with lead poisoning the leading cause of wild California condor deaths. California condors, and their chicks, ingest the lead after feeding on carcasses of animals shot with lead bullets.

Another threat specific to condor nests is micro trash. Micro trash are small coin-sized trash items such as, nuts, bolts, washers, copper wire, plastic, bottle caps, glass, and spent ammunition cartridges.

Condor parents collect these items and feed them to their chick which can cause serious problems with the chick’s development.

While it is not completely understood why this occurs, many biologists believe that the condor parents mistake these items for pieces of bone and shell which provides a source of calcium if fed to the chick.

“Nest cameras like this one were first used as a management tool to help biologists monitor the nests for problems, like lead poising and micro-trash ingestion, so that we could intervene on behalf of the chicks if needed,” said Brandt.

“After watching the footage, we realized that it was also an incredible opportunity to show the world just how caring and attentive condor parents can be, not to mention the comical behaviors of the chicks,” Brandt said.

Conservation efforts toward the recovery of the California condor are achieved only through partnerships among federal, state and private agencies.

The Hopper Mountain NWR nest camera is made possible through the financial and technical support of the USFWS, Santa Barbara Zoo, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and Friends of California Condors Wild and Free.

For answers to commonly asked questions about the California condor nest camera, the chick and its parents visit https://www.allaboutbirds.org/bird-cams-faq-california-condor-nest/ or https://www.fws.gov/cno/es/CalCondor/CondorCam.html.

— Julia McHugh for Santa Barbara Zoo.


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