The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is one of the most critically endangered birds in the world, but a new member has joined the family flock in a new location. According to a press release from the Peregrine Fund, the first wild-born chick has been confirmed in southern Utah, having appeared to observers on June 25. The nest is located in an isolated area of Zion National Park in a rock cavity roughly 1,000 feet above the canyon floor, but the exact location is being kept secret to protect the chick and its parents from interference or disturbance. The parent birds are first-time nesters and so far seem to be doing well caring for their chick.
California condors were nearly extinct in the 1980s, and just 22 birds were recorded alive in 1982. Over several years, the birds were captured and integrated into captive breeding programs, and today there are more than 400 living California condors, though fewer than 300 are in the wild. The rest are residents of breeding and restoration facilities, including zoos, and their offspring are introduced to the wild at appropriate times each year. In northern Arizona and southern Utah, roughly a dozen new condors are released annually, and the goal is to reach a stable population of 150 or more birds in the region.
Fatalities are high for condors in the wild, and because these raptors are scavengers that feed on carrion, they are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. To date, 22 wild condor chicks have been born in the area, all of them in northern Arizona – this year's chick is the first to have been hatched in southern Utah.
If it remains healthy, this chick will spend the next 5-6 months in the nest and making brief appearances on its ledge before it takes its first flight, likely sometime in November or December. It will remain under its parents' care and guidance for up to another full year, but because condors typically return to the same nesting site year after year, it is hoped that this chick may one day have more siblings join it over Utah's skies.