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