On October 22, a six-month-old California condor chick affectionately named “Number 412” rose from its nest in the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County and flew 15 feet. In so doing, the chick became only the second of its extremely endangered species to take flight in the California wild in 14 years and only the seventh to do so in the entire country. In the three weeks since biologists first watched the bird fly, Number 412 (pictured) has continued making short aerial excursions and exploring the lands around its nest.
“This is a significant event,” said Steve Thompson, the manager of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s California and Nevada office. “Each time a condor chick fledges in the wild it brings us that much closer to the goal of the recovery of this great bird.”
Indeed, Number 412, which hatched on May 2, is the brightest glimmer of hope for the California condor, a giant scavenger whose populations dipped to 22 birds in 1982 thanks to development pressures, loss of open lands, lead toxicity, and a number of other factors. By 1984, there were only 15 birds left in the wild. When seven of those quickly died, the rest were brought into captivity. Thanks to a successful captive breeding program, the population grew, and in 1992, the condors were again put back into the wild. Today, there are 128 condors in the wild, including about 15 breeding pairs, and 156 in captivity.
Biologists will monitor Number 412’s progress as it grows and becomes an adult member of North America’s largest bird species. For more information, see www.fws.gov/hoppermountain.
(Photos by Mike Wallace, from the Zoological Society of San Diego)