Three California condors hatched and bred at the Oregon Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation soared into the Arizona open skies last month, marking another milestone in efforts to save this from extinction. critically endangered species.
Condors # 1012, 1017 and 1025 – which hatched at the Jonsson Center in the spring of 2020 – took off from Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, joining a growing population of free-flying condors living among the sandstone escarpments and colorful rock formations of the region.
A new flock of condor chicks now awaits backstage. Earlier this week, the last living chick at the Jonsson Center took flight, meaning all the birds that hatched there last spring now have feathers and wing muscles developed enough to fly. The young condors are still in the care of their parents, but it won’t be long before they are the next group to fly free.
“The condors released last month are doing very well,” said Tim Hauck, program director for The Peregrine Fund. “They roost in good places and have a lot to eat.”
All wild releases in Vermilion are ‘soft releases’, which means birds leave flight enclosures at their own discretion. When a condor enters the outer holding area of its enclosure, the inner door closes and triggers the outer door to open, allowing the bird to fly freely.
“It’s extremely gratifying to watch them take off,” said Kelli Walker, who oversees the Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts. “Over the years, the condors bred by the Oregon Zoo have been very successful and have teamed up with other wild condors to raise new wild chicks.”
The California condor was one of the first animals included in the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and is listed as Critically Endangered. In 1982 only 22 individuals remained in the wild and in 1987 the last condors were placed in human care in an effort to save the species from extinction. Thanks to recovery programs like the one at the Oregon Zoo, the global California condor population now numbers around 500 birds, most of which are free fliers.
The Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts take place at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County on open land owned by Metro. The remoteness of the facility minimizes exposure of young condors to humans, increasing the chances of birds hatched in captivity to survive and breed in the wild.
Teledyne FLIR’s visible security cameras provide a better view of nesting areas and 24/7 observation of condors, helping zoo staff better monitor the health of chicks and parents. Further improvements and new equipment at the center have been made possible through continued support from the Avangrid Foundation and donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation, which support the zoo’s efforts to advance welfare, conservation and animal education. To learn more or to donate, call 503-220-2493 or email [email protected]
More than 70 chicks have hatched at the Jonsson Center since 2003, and more than 50 birds raised at the Oregon Zoo have gone to pens to be released. Several eggs laid by the condors at the Oregon Zoo were placed in wild nests to hatch.
California condor breeding programs are also in operation at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, the Los Angeles Zoo, and the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho. For more information, visit oregonzoo.org/condors.