California Condor Milestone Reached: Breeding Programs Are Working

February 25, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Officials are celebrating California condor’s milestone. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, for the first time in over 25 years, more young California condors took fly than died – an important milestone for the species, which almost vanished.

California condor milestone

California condor’s big milestone is making headlines. On Monday, officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Golden State were pleased to announce that since taking numerous actions to protect the California condors in 1987, there were more condors hatched and fledged in the wild last year than adult wild condors that died.

The California condor, which is also known as Gymnogyps californianus, is the largest North American land bird, it sadly became extinct in the wild in 1987, (all more remaining wild birds were captured) because of hunters and lead poisoning. Another reason for the disappearance, California condors only lay one egg a year, and survival rates are still on the low end.

Experts launched massive captive breeding programs and were able to increase the number of condors dramatically since then. In 2011, California condors in the wild for the first time outnumbered condors in captivity since the start of the breeding programs. The wild population has since grown to 268 wild condors, with 167 in captivity.

In the spring of 2012, it was revealed that 226 California condors were living in the wild in California, Arizona, and nearby Baja, Mexico. An additional 179 birds lived in zoos and breeding centers. The population has increased more than 20 percent in the last two years. However, the species is still listed as critically endangered.

At least 22 of the condors released in Arizona have died from lead poisoning, according to experts. After countless lawsuits, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has claimed it asked hunters to voluntarily use lead-free ammo.

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shared for the first time in decades, fourteen young condors took flight compared with 12 that died. California officials say it is “small difference but a big milestone since the last 22 wild condors were captured in the 1980s to start the breeding program that releases offspring into the wild.”

Eric Davis, the Wildlife Service’s coordinator for the California condor program, said:

“That’s an indication that the program is succeeding. We hope that wild birds start producing wild chicks, and that is what is happening more and more.”

In 2015, officials counted 27 wild condor nests – 19 were in California, 3 in the Arizona-Utah border area, and 5 in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Zion National Park in Utah, and Pinnacles National Park in central California each have one nest.

Marti Jenkins, a condor propagation manager at the facility, said “So far it’s going fantastic,” and went on to add that the birds had laid six eggs and nine more are expected this spring.

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