Flight path of the curious condor

A young and adventurous California condor recently made an eventful trip to Santa Barbara’s foothills, sparking excitement among conservationists who’ve toiled to save the critically endangered species.

“While it is not uncommon for condors to venture into Santa Barbara backcountry,” said Devon Pryor, a conservation and research associate for the Santa Barbara Zoo, “this is the closest we’ve documented condor activity in proximity to our zoo!”

Santa Barbara's most recent condor visitor, #717

On her way toward the city on May 25, the 2-year-old, wild-fledged bird tagged #717 flew west from the Pine Mountain Club area, through the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, between Los Olivos and Solvang, and near La Cumbre Peak, where she roosted for the night.

The next morning, #717 perched on a cluster of rocks below the Jesusita Trail — within 2.5 miles of the zoo — before flying north past Cachuma Mountain and over Peak Mountain on her way to Tejon Ranch; #717’s flight path was tracked with Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM) location data that recorded her location every minute using cellular networks.

“These exploratory flights are common among juvenile condors, ages 2-5, as they are not yet of breeding age and lower on the totem pole at communal settings, such as feeding events and common roosts,” said Pryor. The Santa Barbara Zoo exhibits four condors and is one of just a handful of facilities that cares for the scavengers, which are the largest land bird in North America.

Throughout the 20th century, California condors kept disappearing until the last of them were taken into captivity to nurse the population away from extinction; reintroduction endeavors began in 1992 and continue today.


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