Watchers of the California Condor Cam welcomed three new stars to the livestreaming show when a pair of proud parents hatched their first chick on April 10. The camera is installed above a sandy cliffside nest on the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County.
Though the mother (#563) attempted to raise a chick once before, and the father (#262) successfully fledged with a previous mate, chick #980 is the couple’s first nesting attempt together. On June 5, the camera caught a tender moment between dad and offspring as the two cuddled up before #262 offered up a lunchtime meal of regurgitated carrion.
The Condor Cam has been around since 2015 and documents the efforts of scientists and the endangered bird species to repopulate its California habitats across Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Kern, Tulare, and Fresno counties. The livestream, which has hundreds of thousands of viewers across the world, is a three-way effort among the Santa Barbara Zoo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
“Today’s technology allows researchers like us to observe nests in remote locations without having to trek into the backcountry and wait for days, sometimes weeks, at observation blinds for a glimpse of the condors,” said Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, the S.B. Zoo’s director of conservation and science. “With this livestream, the public can share in the thrill of seeing these rare and highly endangered birds care for their chick and follow its development before it takes its first flight.” The zoo also provides staff and financial support for the Southern California flock and helps recruit and train volunteer watchers for the nests that don’t have cameras.
Last year’s nesting season was the recovery program’s most successful ever, with 12 nests in the SoCal flock. In 1982, the worldwide condor population had dwindled to just 22 birds. Today, there are nearly 500. Learn more about conservation efforts and watch this year’s Pole Canyon livestream at sbzoo.org/conservation/condor-cam/.