Biologists confirm California condor nest in Zion National Park

ST GEORGE — Park biologists have confirmed the location of a California condor nest in Zion National Park, where a pair of condors are caring for the first egg they’ve produced together so far.

The nest is located on the cliff face of the Minotaur Tower to the north of Angels Landing, according to a Zion Facebook post. Park biologists observed the pair performing a nest exchange, in which the condors switch places as they take turns sitting on the egg.

The park estimates that the egg was laid mid-March, and should hatch during the first part of May if all goes well. It is the first egg produced by breeding pair 409 and 523. The mother, condor 409, can be identified by wing tag 9, and the father, condor 523, by wing tag J3. These two birds were the only breeding pair recorded in the park in 2018, according to National Park Service records.

The pair are often spotted in Zion and have been together for two years, though they have yet to produce a chick together. So far, none of the condors in Zion have been able to raise a chick to adulthood, according to the post.

Prior to her current mate, the mother was with condor 337. They pair produced two chicks during their time together, one in 2014 and one in 2016, though neither survived to leave the nest.

Read more: Biologists determine Utah’s 1st condor chick hasn’t survived

In June 2016, while the pair was nesting on Bridge Mountain, condor 337 became sick from lead poisoning. Despite biologists’ efforts to treat the bird, he died shortly after being found.

Read more: Zion condor raising new chick dies; lead poisoning suspected

Lead poisoning is the leading cause of diagnosed death for condors in Southern Utah and Arizona, according to an NPS article. As scavengers, condors get lead poisoning when they ingest the remains of an animal shot by lead-based ammunition.

Officials recommend that hunters use non-lead ammunition, such as copper bullets, when shooting animals of any size. Alternatively, all remains of the animal should be removed from the field if shot with lead-based ammunition. For more information regarding non-lead ammunition, click here.

Condors are not the only birds nesting in the park right now. Peregrine falcons are also nesting, and the park has closed many of its climbing routes until late April or early May so as not to disturb them. Climbing route closures and information regarding climbing can be found here.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

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