California condor chick hatches in Utah's Zion

Condor known as #9 is mother to the newborn chick in Zion National Park


A California condor chick has hatched in the upper reaches of Utah's Zion National Park. The chick was spotted on June 25 at the edge of its nest about 1,000 feet above the canyon.

California condors were declared extinct in the wild in 1987 and remain critically endangered. Happily, wild populations have risen to more than 200 due to captive-breeding and release efforts.

This is the first time a California condor has hatched in the wild in Utah since captive-bred condors began being released in northern Arizona in 1996. This momentous event has biologists hopeful that the largest birds in North America are reestablishing themselves in southern Utah, part of their once-expansive range.

Biologists anticipated this event after observing courtship and nesting behavior of a pair of adult condors. California condors take longer than any bird on the continent to fledge, so it won't be flying until November or December this year. California condors typically produce one chick every other year.

photo: Captive-bred California condor and it's wild-fledged chick in Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in California. credit: John Brandt/USFWS.

The biggest obstacle to condor recovery in Arizona and Utah has been lead poisoning. Condors, who have attempted to nest in Zion for the past four years, have been unsuccessful due to related fatalities. Condors are scavengers, and so are susceptible to eating the remains of animals that have been shot with lead-based ammunition. Efforts to reduce condor exposure to lead ammunition are also underway.

Understandably, the park is focusing on protecting this noteworthy chick and minimizing human impact, so Zion visitors are not able to see it. Luckily, the San Diego Zoo also had a condor chick hatch in a rearing facility within days of this wild-born one, so those curious can check out their condor camera.

“This is a significant milestone in the process of restoring a species to its historical habitat,” reported Keith Day, a wildlife biologist with the state of Utah. “It proves that Utah still has suitable habitat for these magnificent birds.”

Fortunately there are protected wild lands in Utah like Zion National Park - 85% of which is protected as wilderness.

Another condor chick made headlines back in 2010 when it was the first one in a century that hatched in California's Pinnacles National Park, where the birds once thrived. Pinnacles obtained more protected wilderness in 2013, when The Wilderness Society helped elevate it from a national monument to a national park

Help us continue to keep places like Zion and Pinnacles protected now and for future generations - hopefully of condor chicks!


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