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First Condor Nest Near Pinnacles in Over 70 Years

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Biologists at Pinnacles National Monument have verified the first California condor nest in San Benito County since before a reestablishment effort began there in 2003. A male condor, condor 313, released at the Monument as a 1 1/2 year old bird in 2004 has just reached breeding age and has paired with a nearly six year old female, condor 303, originally released along the Big Sur coast by Ventana Wildlife Society. This is the first breeding attempt by either condor.

Biologists will be closely monitoring the nest to determine if the new parents succeed in incubating the egg and rearing a young bird to fledge from the high rocky cliff. The adult condors were tracked using radio telemetry and global positioning technology to the nest site. In March, the condor pair began regularly alternating visits to the remote cliff,indicating the birds were trading off incubation duties. During a later site visit, biologists were able to witness the male, condor 313, stand and briefly turn the egg.

The nest site is on a private ranch outside of the monument. The National Park Service is working with the ranchers on a collaborative management nest monitoring strategy. Ranching operations will continue as normal. "This has been a rewarding opportunity to work with our community toward common goals. Both the ranchers and the condors will benefit from the continuation of successful ranching operations," said Daniel George,Condor Program Manager at Pinnacles national Monument.

Condor eggs take an average of 57 days to hatch. Nestlings remain flightless for an additional 5 1/2 to 6 months. Park Service biologists expect that if the new parents successfully rear a young condor, it would take its first flight in early October.

Condor History

History of the Pinnacles Condor Program Pinnacles National Monument was chosen as a California condor release site due to historical documentation of condors in the area, good cliff nesting structure, and the large expanses of intact habitat in the region.

There have been five groups of condors released at Pinnacles National Monument, bringing the current total to 23 free-flying condors. Ultimately,project biologists aim to build a sustainable population of condors at Pinnacles over the next several years. This will contribute to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan goal of establishing a population in California of 150 or more condors with at least 15 breeding pairs.

History of the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) Condors maintained a strong population in the American West until the mid-19th century, when shooting, poisoning from lead and strychnine, egg collecting, DDT, and general habitat degradation began to take a heavy toll. Between the mid-1880s and 1924, there were scattered reports of condors in Arizona. But by the late 1930s, all remaining condors were found only in California and by 1982, the total population had dwindled to just22 birds and extinction loomed.

As a result of the continued downward spiral of the condor population,the California condor was placed on the federal endangered species list in1967. In the early 1980s, an intensive captive breeding program rescued the species from extinction and in the 1990s reestablishment efforts began in southern California. Since that time, release sites have also been launched in Northern Arizona, along the Big Sur coast, at Pinnacles National Monument, and on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

Recent Information

The current world population of California condors numbers 322, more than an order of magnitude from the population low in 1982. Eighty-six birds are flying free in California, fifteen in Baja Mexico, and seventy-one in Arizona. An additional 150 are in captive breeding centers.

Challenges to Condor Recovery For recovery of an endangered species to succeed, it is necessary to change in the conditions that lead to their decline. Egg collecting is no longer a significant threat, the effects of DDT are likely to diminish over the coming century, and poisoning of bait carcasses for predator control is no longer an established practice.

The primary threat remaining to California condor recovery is lead poisoning. Condors inadvertently ingest lead bullet fragments when animal carcasses, and their gut piles, shot with lead remain on the landscape. For this reason, the California legislature outlawed the use of lead ammunition for big game hunting and depredation within the condor's range.

The Institute for Wildlife Studies works to disseminate information of the effectiveness and availability non-lead ammunition.

Partners in Recovery The reestablishment of California condors to Pinnacles is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Ventana Wildlife Society, the Institute for Wildlife Studies, and Pinnacles Partnership, in collaboration with the California Condor Recovery Team.

The San Diego Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, and the Oregon Zoo breed condors destined for release in California, Arizona, and Baja, Mexico. The Pinnacles condor release is an important link in the overall condor recovery effort.

Further details of the program are available on the Pinnacles National Monument website or by calling Pinnacles National Monument at 831-389-4485. For information on Pinnacles Partnership's work,contact Mark Paxton at 831-801-4882.


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  • FREE Park Admission

    In celebration of National Park Week, Pinnacles National Monument will be offering FREE weekend admission for the weekend of April 15th & 16th, as well as, the weekend of April 22nd & 23rd.

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