Image Source: Flickr. By: Darkmatter.

Last year, I went on a journey through Arizona. One of the places I visited was the Grand Canyon. While there, I learned about the California Condor and was actually fortunate enough to see a few of them in flight. It was an awesome experience.

If you are unfamiliar with the California Condor: it is the largest North American land bird, a critically endangered species, and the only living animal of the genus Gymnogyps. California Condors can live up to 50 years; however, extensive poaching, lead poison and habitat destruction brought the California Condor species to near extinction.

In 1987, there were about 22 wild California Condors left in existence. These birds were captured and made part of breeding programs at the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park. As of this past February, there are now 348 living California Condors—187 of which have been released back into the wild.

That brings me to the good news: for the first time in over 100 years, there was a successful hatching of a California Condor chick inside a federal park that was once part of their habitat. Unfortunately, there is also a bit of bad news. The egg that hatched did not come from any of the adult condors in the park. One pair of condors had conceived an egg in March. Biologists took the egg for safekeeping and replaced it with a plastic egg; but the embryo in the conceived egg had died only a week into its development.

The hatched egg actually came from a captive breeding pair at the San Diego Wildlife Park. The chick was born on March 24th, though its gender has yet to be determined after a series of blood tests are done. As with all other California Condor offspring, this chick will live with its “parents” for a year. The adults will wait two years before conceiving another egg.

California Condors are quite amazing birds. When they choose a mate, it’s for life—not even most humans can make that claim. To find out how you can help them, check out the links below:

California Condor Conservation
Center for Biological Diversity – California Condor
Audubon California – California Condor
Save Tejon Ranch