Meet the Devil’s Gate California Condor chick who survived the Thomas Fire
Anyone can now get up close and personal with a California condor chick that hatched in April in a cliffside nest in Ventura County, thanks to technology.
A nest camera was recently installed near the nest, located in Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, and a livestream has been set up for curious folk to check in on the chick, known as Condor No. 980, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The chick hatched on April 10. The livestream can be found at this link.
“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 Estelle Sandhaus, director of conservation and science at the Santa Barbara Zoo, in the release.
The camera is the result of a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and agencies and organizations including the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Cornell Lab of Orinthology and Friends of California Condors Wild and Free. Additionally, private landowners in the area granted officials access to set up the camera.
“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,” Sandhaus said. “What was once only seen by a few scientists is now available to anyone with an internet connection.”
The chick was born to a 9-year-old female named Condor No. 563 and a 19-year-old male named Condor No. 262. This is the pair’s first nesting attempt together, though they’ve each nested previously, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The 2018 nesting season broke records — authorities recorded 12 nests in the mountains of Ventura, Santa Barbara and Kern counties, and six of those were successful, according to the release. That’s the largest-ever number of successful nests in the Southern California condor flock, officials said.
The California condor range includes the mountains of Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Benito, Tulare, Fresno, Los Angeles and Kern counties, as well as the western Sierra Nevada mountains, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
California condors have been designated as endangered since their numbers took a steep decline in the mid-20th century. In 1982, just 22 condors were left in the wild, according to the release.
Today, the population is just under 490 worldwide, with more than half of those “flying free,” the agency said.
The greatest threat to condors is lead poisoning, which happens when the birds feed on carcasses that contain lead bullet fragments.
Another threat is “micro trash,” small, coin-sized items like copper wire, bottle caps and glass, which condor parents collect and then feed to their chicks, which can cause serious problems with the chicks’ development.
In November 2018, a California condor chick took flight from a nest in the Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara County, marking the first time a condor chick successfully fledged there in more than 30 years.