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California Condors Nesting in Utah for the First Time

Well, the first time in several hundred years, at least. A pair of California Condors at Zion National Park in Utah are raising a single chick, documented by park staff and a number of other state and federal groups.

As birders undoubtedly know already, the iconic California Condor was the focus of one of the world’s largest and most dramatic re-establishment campaigns. All wild condors, at the time found exclusively in a few remote canyons of southern California, were captured and brought into captivity and held as part of a massive captive breeding program. That program has, at least in the short term, been successful in re-introducing free-flying condors back to their former haunts in California, Arizona, and Utah.

Condor #9, mother to the Utah chick, at Zion NP, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Condor #9, mother to the Utah chick, at Zion NP, photo courtesy of the National Park Service

From the Peregrine Fund:

Keith Day, regional wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the chick won’t try to fly until November or December. “California condors take about six months to fledge,” he says. “Their fledging period is the longest of any bird in North America.” Day says the parents will spend the next year raising the chick. “California condors typically produce one chick every other year,” he says, “so they probably won’t nest again until the early months of 2016.”

With California Condors up to around 400 birds, most of which are free-flying and many of those are breeding with some success, the question of ABA countability becomes even more relevant. Will we once again be able to add these birds to our lists free and clear? To add a bit of life list flair to the already incredible experience of observing these impressive birds flying wild and unencumbered? It’s a decision that may need to be made sooner rather than later.

In any case, right now it’s enough to know that condors are blazing trails in ways unimaginable when they were at their nadir those 30 years ago.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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