Condor chicks hatch in zoo and wild

Conservation biologists are crowing about the hatching of two highly endangered California condor chicksone from the wild and another in the wild.

On June 1, scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the condor-breeding programs at two California zoos rescued a pair of eggs from a nest on a remote canyon cliff in California’s Los Padres National Forest (SN: 6/9/01, p. 357). Only one of the eggs possessed a live fetus. These eggs were the species’ first shot at reproducing in the wild since the mid-1980s.

During the late 1980s, the last remaining wild adults were captured and taken to a pair of zoos, where captive-rearing programs produced a bevy of chicks. A reintroduction program, begun in 1992, has been releasing some of those offspring. The oldest of these birds reached mating age this year. Two of the females mated with a single male and set up a communal nest.

Although scientists thought the fetus in the one living egg was deformed, they shipped it to the Los Angeles Zoo. It hatched there on June 17, and captive adult condors adopted the apparently normal youngster, whose sex is not yet known.

Meanwhile, the condors in Los Padres tended the dummy egg that researchers had swapped into the nest for the real eggs. On June 18, the biologists flushed the condors and replaced the fake egg with one laid at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Just minutes before they put the egg in the nest, “the embryo could be heard vocalizing, which is a very healthy sign,” notes Susie Kasielke, a bird curator at the zoo. The wild condors tended this egg, which hatched late last week. Now, one of the females is taking care of the chick.

This breeding “is right on schedule with our expectations,” notes Mike Wallace of the condor-recovery team at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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