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Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
Biologists at Pinnacles National Monument have verified the first California condor nest in the monument in over 100 years. Condor 317, a female released at the monument as a 1 ½ year old bird in 2004, has paired with a nearly seven year old male, Condor 318, originally released along the Big Sur coast by Ventana Wildlife Society. This is the first breeding attempt by either condor. The adult condors were tracked using radio telemetry and global positioning technology to the nest site. They were also observed performing courtship behaviors for nearly a month before an egg was confirmed.
”We are thrilled that after being involved with the Condor Recovery Program since 2003, the park has its first nest in over 100 years,” said Eric Brunnemann, Park Superintendent. “…and conveniently Condors 317 and 318 chose a nest cave that can be easily viewed by the public from the Scout Peak bench on the High Peaks Trail,” continued Brunnemann. Although the areas directly around the nest cliff will be closed to public use for the duration of the nesting period, public viewing is still possible. The strenuous hike to the viewing area is approximately two miles from the closest East or West Side parking areas. From the west, the elevation gain is approximately 1100 feet, and from the east it is over 1200 feet. Please ask in the Visitor Center for more complete directions to the viewing area.
A temporary closure area around the nest cliff is in effect during the 2010 breeding season. Park visitors interested in off trail activities within the Monument must consult with a park ranger for specific guidance.
Biologists will be closely monitoring the nest to determine if the new parents succeed in incubating the egg and rearing a young bird to fledge from the high rocky cliff. Condor eggs take an average of 57 days to hatch. Nestlings remain flightless for an additional 5½ to 6 months. Park Service biologists expect that if the new parents successfully rear a young condor, it would take its first flight in early October.
Pinnacles National Monument was chosen as a California condor release site due to historical documentation of condors in the area, good cliff nesting opportunities, and large expanses of intact habitat in the region. There have been six groups of condors released at Pinnacles National Monument, bringing the current total to 26 free-flying condors. 2009 marked the first year that a Pinnacles released condor nested. Condor 313 paired with Condor 303 who laid an egg in a rocky outcrop at the RS Bar Guest Ranch in southern San Benito County. Although Condor 303 died before her nestling took his first flight, the juvenile survived and continues to fly over San Benito County. With the approval of the National Park Service and others involved in the condor recovery effort, the owners and operators of the RS Bar Guest Ranch formed an unprecedented relationship with the Pinnacles Partnership, a nonprofit organization supporting the monument, so visitors could have the opportunity to take guided trips to the remote nest site, where the nesting pair and their offspring could frequently be viewed for extended periods.
National Park Biologists are working with partners at the Ventana Wildlife Society and community volunteers to build a self sustaining population of condors in central California over the next several years.
Condors maintained a strong population in the American West until the mid-19th century, when shooting, poisoning from lead and strychnine, egg collecting, and general habitat degradation began to take a heavy toll.
Between the mid-1880s and 1924, there were scattered reports of condors in Arizona. But by the late 1930s, all remaining condors were found only in California and the mid 1980s, the total population had dwindled to just 22 birds.
The California condor was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1967. In the early 1980s, an intensive captive breeding program rescued the species from extinction and in the 1990s reestablishment efforts began in southern California. Since that time, release sites have also been launched in northern Arizona, along the Big Sur coast, at Pinnacles National Monument, and on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.
The current world population of California condors numbers 348. Ninety-five birds are flying free in California, eighteen in Baja Mexico, and seventy-four in Arizona. An additional 161 are in captive breeding centers.
This information came to San Benito Bounty from the Pinnacles Partnership. The cool photo is courtesy of John Maio. This is another great reason for coming to San Benito County!
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