First Condor Nesting in 2016

First Condor Nest in Central California at Pinnacles National Park

Central California –Biologists are excitedly searching for nesting pairs of condors. The first pair discovered this year is male #340 and female #236, nesting in the majestic rock formations at Pinnacles National Park.
The female, aka “Tiny”, hatched in 2001 and was released in Big Sur in 2002. While the male, aka “Kun-Wac-Shun”, meaning Thunder and Lightning according to the Wasco Tribe, was the first condor raised at the Oregon Zoo and was released at Pinnacles in 2005. Unfortunately, #340’s first mate died of lead poisoning in 2014. Interestingly, both females were released in Big Sur and all of their nests have been at Pinnacles.
Since finding the nest at Pinnacles, biologists also discovered an additional five nests in central California, all west of Highway 101.

Biologists are very hopeful for the nesting season this year, although not all nests are successful. Since the beginning of Ventana Wildlife Society’s and Pinnacles National Park’s condor release programs in 1997 and 2003 respectively, the number of birds in the wild has increased, largely due to new additions from captive breeding programs. As condors in the central California area have matured and reached breeding age, it has been exciting to watch their natural recovery in the wild through nesting.
Yet even while recovery is within sight, there remains more to do to ensure condors survive in the long-term. Lead poisoning continues to hinder their survival because they inadvertently ingest fragments of lead ammunition in carcasses they feed upon that are left over from hunting or ranching operations. “Condors and other scavenging wildlife, such as eagles, benefit from carcasses left behind if non-lead ammunition is used. Hunters and ranchers have a long-standing tradition of taking a pro-active role in wildlife conservation and management,” said Karen Beppler-Dorn, Superintendent of Pinnacles National Park, which co-manages the central California condor flock with the Ventana Wildlife Society. “Shooters who have switched to non-lead ammunition have made an invaluable contribution to the health of all scavenging wildlife,” This is why Ventana Wildlife Society is providing free nonlead ammunition to hunters and ranchers to the extent they can. “We want to help folks make a switch to high-performing copper ammunition and other alternatives to lead. Since 2012, we’ve given away over $100,000 worth of ammunition to hunters and ranchers”, says executive director of Ventana Wildlife Society, Kelly Sorenson.
VWS has an online raffle on their website ( for big game hunters, which operates in the spring and summer months and throughout the year they provide .22 and other smaller calibers to ranchers that have condors feeding on their property.

The condor population as of the end of 2015 reached a total of 435 birds, of which nearly two-thirds are living in the wild in California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, Mexico. With nesting season now underway, these numbers should grow in 2016.
Residents and visitors to central California can also help condors in the wild by reporting sightings at or by contacting Pinnacles National Park by emailing observations to Another way to stay connected to the wild flock is to watch live streaming video from the Ventana Wildlife Society’s Big Sur Condor Sanctuary, Click here. The cams were made possible through the financial and technical support of the following project partners: Ventana Wildlife Society, Oakland Zoo, HDonTap, and FedEx.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California Condor Recovery Program is a multi-entity effort to recover the endangered California condor. Cooperators include the U.S. Forest Service, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Oakland Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, California Department of Fish and Game, the Peregrine Fund, Ventana Wildlife Society, Pinnacles National Park, La Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAP), the, Bureau of Land Management, California State Parks, and many others. The Recovery Program is currently focusing its efforts on the captive-breeding and reintroduction of California condors to the wild in the hopes of establishing a self-sustaining population.

Founded in 1977, Ventana Wildlife Society led the way to successful reintroduction of the Bald Eagle and the California condor, two of the most iconic birds in the world, to native habitats in central California. Through the course of their work, they developed an organizational culture that strongly values science, education and collaboration and regularly found ways for both wildlife and people to benefit from one another. VWS recovers individual species and tracks the populations of many others so that conservation can be timely as well as effective. Focusing on youth education, we better ensure that future generations have the willingness and capacity to help wildlife. Our vision is to have a society who cares for and supports wildlife across the planet, particularly in California.


Jan Lemons, Chief Ranger Kelly Sorenson, Executive Director
Pinnacles National Park Ventana Wildlife Society
5000 Highway 146 19045 Portola Drive, Ste F1
Paicines, CA 95043 Salinas, CA 93908
Office: 831-389-4486 831-800-7420

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