Ventura, Calif. – For the first time in history, anyone with an internet connection will have the opportunity to watch a California condor egg hatch in the wild via a live video camera. Eyes will be glued to livestreaming footage from a cliffside nest at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California that will capture the special event and journey to adulthood in real-time.
“We’re eager and excited to not only be able to share this experience with the world, but also open up the opportunity for more people to learn about California condors, what makes them such remarkable birds, and draw attention to the very real threats they face in the wild,” said Joseph Brandt, condor biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Condor biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Barbara Zoo will answer questions about the condor nest from the public during an online livestream video chat hosted by Cornell Lab of Ornithology on April 14 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time/1:00 p.m. ET.
“This live cam takes the viewer right into the nest cave with the condors to watch their behavior and hear the sounds they make,” says Charles Eldermire, Bird Cams manager at the Cornell Lab. “We hope it will really raise awareness about these spectacular but highly endangered birds and the threats they face. We know from past experience that people form a real emotional connection to the birds they see on the cams as they witness a part of nature they’ve never seen before.”
The egg was incubated as part of the California Condor Recovery Program’s captive breeding effort at Los Angeles Zoo, and replaced the California condor #111 and California condor #509 pair’s wild-laid egg that went missing in March. Biologists quickly mobilized to replace the missing egg with a dummy egg to ensure the male and female continued to incubate at the nest. On April 2, the captive-bred egg was placed into the nest. The soon-to-be condor parents, 22-year-old female condor, California condor #111 and her seven-year-old mate, California condor #509, have been courting since fall of 2014, and hatched their first wild chick together in April 2015. Sadly, the pair’s first chick died from lead poisoning, a harsh reality of the man-made threat condors continue to face in the wild.
“The chick was either compromised from ingesting lead fragments in his food, leading to increased vulnerability to predators, or he died of lead toxicity,” says Estelle Sandhaus, Director of Conservation and Research at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Based on necropsy results biologists say the most likely cause of death was an acute case of lead poisoning, the number one cause of death for wild California condors.
The reality of lead contamination is all too common across the California condor’s current range. Condors ingest spent lead ammunition fragments when feeding on wildlife that has been killed with lead ammunition. Lead poisoning, the number one killer of California condors, as well as a variety of other suspected threats, led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate the species as federally endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1967, and brought the California condor population to a frightening low of just 22 birds worldwide in 1982.
Today, due to intensive, ongoing recovery efforts by multiple public and private partners, including a captive breeding program, the California condor population has grown to around 430 birds worldwide, with more than half of the population flying free.
For answers to commonly asked questions about the condor nest camera, the egg, and the parents visit cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/49/California_Condor/ and www.fws.gov/cno/es/CalCondor/Condorcam.html.
The Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge nest camera was made possible through the financial and technical support of the following project partners: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Santa Barbara Zoo, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and Friends of California Condors Wild and Free.
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