Editor’s note: Updated March 5 to include additional information.
After losing 24 birds to wildfires last year, the Central Coast California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) population is set to add some new chicks to the flock. There are currently at least three nesting pairs and more expected as spring arrives.
Two birds, #589 from Pinnacles and #569 from Ventana, are nesting at Pinnacles and biologists will be able to monitor that nest. Two other pairs, #663/438 and #204/646, are nesting in Monterey County. Their exact locations are still to be determined. There are eight other potential nesting pairs between the regions.
Condor pairs lay one egg, which is incubated for 57-60 days. The young fledge around six months and stay with their parents for about 18 months. A total of 47 chicks in the Central Coast condor flock have been hatched in the wild since 2007.
The Central Coast population—composed of 90 individuals—has lost four birds in 2021. The total condor population, both wild and captive, is 507 birds. The birds released last fall are all thriving and both sites expect to release captive bred/raised birds in the fall. Ventana expects to release #1033 and #1031. #1033 was evacuated from her nest by biologists as the Dolan Fire south of Big Sur grew close, and #1031 sustained injuries after falling from his nest. Both juveniles are being raised in the Los Angeles Zoo.
Female condor #290, who lost her mate in the Dolan Fire and the parent of #1031 who was injured after a fall from her nest shortly after the fire, has nested with #477 inside the same Redwood tree cavity where #1031 hatched last year.
In 2008, the then two-month-old #477 survived the Basin Complex Wildfire that scorched the forest surrounding his nest. The area was so severely burned that there was little left but ash for miles. However, #477 survived the disaster as the fire burned halfway up his tree.
GPS monitoring has allowed biologists to see how far some individuals fly. Birds have made it as far north as Livermore, east into the Sierra Nevada mountains, and to the south where some have met up with the Southern California flock of Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
Future plans are set for the Yurok Nation in Humboldt County to build a condor release site by fall 2022. Biologist Joe Burnett noted that the birds are beginning to fill out their historic range.
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