ZION NATIONAL PARK – It’s official: A pair of California condors are raising a chick in Utah. Zion National Park announced Tuesday that biologists from several agencies and groups have been focusing their attention on a rock cavity located 1,000 feet above a remote canyon floor in Zion National Park.
Inside the cavity, the biologists were hoping a pair of California condors had hatched an egg, according to a press statement. Their hopes were realized on June 25 when a condor chick made its first appearance on the edge of the nest. This chick is the offspring of first-time nesting parents. The occasion is particularly momentous because the results of first-time nesters often fail.
“This is the first documented occurrence of California condors raising a chick in Utah,” Eddie Feltes, condor project manager with The Peregrine Fund, said. “This is great news. This pair of condors – and their newly-hatched chick – could be a major step toward California condors reestablishing themselves in southern Utah.”
Keith Day, regional wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the chick won’t try to fly until November or December.
“California condors take about six months to fledge,” Day said. “Their fledging period is the longest of any bird in North America.”
The condor parents will spend the next year raising their chick.
“California condors typically produce one chick every other year,” he said, “so they probably won’t nest again until the early months of 2016.”
Fred Armstrong, chief of resource management and research with Zion National Park, said many people are wondering where the nest site is located, but said they can’t provide that information because the birds are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“Our top priorities are to allow the chick to grow and develop in a natural environment without significant human influence, keep it safe, and to protect park resources in the area where the chick is located,” Armstrong said.
Those curious to see what the chick might look like are advised to visit the condor camera at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The zoo had a condor hatch in its rearing facility within days of Zion’s wild-born condor.
How biologists found the nest
The Peregrine Fund biologists found the nest by following radio and Global Positioning System signals from transmitters mounted on each of the chick’s parents. They started keeping a close eye on the birds after the pair exhibited nesting behavior this past spring, according to the press release.
Biologists and the condor recovery program partner agencies became excited when the birds started displaying behavior that indicated they were incubating an egg. Excitement grew when the pair showed signs they were tending a chick. On June 25, the chick made its first appearance on the edge of the nest.
“It was only a matter of time before the birds started nesting in Utah,” Chris Parish, condor field project supervisor with The Peregrine Fund, said. “There is great habitat in Utah. It didn’t take long for the condors to find it.”
Working cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, The Peregrine Fund has taken the lead on reintroducing and restoring this federally endangered species in northern Arizona and Southern Utah.
- Additional information about the California condor recovery program is available online and on Facebook.