Another juvenile California condor has been set free from a large holding pen in the mountains east of San Simeon, the third over the past two months.
“Tonk,” a female, joins the flock of 16 of the giant endangered birds that have been released in San Luis Obispo County since 2015, according to Joe Burnett, lead biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS) in Big Sur.
Since 2015, 19 California condors have been released from the enormous fly pen in the rugged, bouldered mountains high above San Simeon.
Three more juveniles in the current six-bird cohort — raised in captivity at the World Center for Birds of Prey in Utah — await their very first adventure into the skies: “Cedric” (male), “Narcissa” (female) and “Sirius” (male).
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The juveniles are just under 2 years of age, but they are fully grown, featuring jumbo 9 1/2-foot wingspans. However, they will not be mature enough to sport the stark red-orange heads or of breeding age until they are approximately 5 years old.
The release area, near the Pine Mountain region 10 miles east of San Simeon, features hollowed out trees and craggy caves, ideal for condor mating and rearing their young. Condors don’t build nests; they find suitable existing venues.
Presently, there are an estimated 160 California condors flying free in central and southern California, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Roughly 88 of those birds are known to travel to and from Pinnacles, Big Sur and San Simeon. All released juveniles are outfitted with GPS technologies, so collaborators can monitor their movements.
For more information on the California Condor Recovery Program and how to obtain non-lead ammunition (a law banning lead ammo, which can be deadly to condors, throughout California goes into effect in July 2019), visit email@example.com.