A sweeping red-rock cliff at Utah’s Zion National Park is now the home of a new California condor chick as the species makes a comeback in the wild three decades after they were on the brink of extinction, biologists have confirmed.
The chick is believed to have hatched in early May on the cliffs just north of Angels Landing, park rangers said. If it survives to flying age in November, it will be the first chick to fledge at the park.
“We’re hoping it does fledge, it takes off out of the nest and successfully flies off,” said Eugenne Moisa with Zion National Park on Wednesday.
Birds raised in captivity were first released at Vermilion Cliffs near the Arizona-Utah line in 1996, and now more than 88 flying in the two states.
The new chick’s parents are the only identified breeding pair in Zion, and are estimated to have been together two years. The female was born in 2006 at the San Diego Zoo and the male hatched in 2009 in Boise, Idaho, before being released into the wild.
They were bred as part of a program that started after the number of California condors were left in the world dwindled to 22. The remaining wild condors were captured and held in captivity to keep them safe and launch the breeding program involving government agencies, private organizations, citizens and biologists.
The Zion chick marks the 1,000 hatched as part of the program, and the surviving condor population now numbers more than 500. More than half of those birds are living in the wild along a range that includes Arizona, Utah, northern Mexico, and California.
Eggs are typically laid on the floor of caves or large crevices, and the parents share incubation duties. Baby condors typically make their first flight after six months but might stay in the nesting area for up to a year as their parents feed it and teach it how to savage for meat.
That means the condors can only reproduce every two years at most, and at Zion three chicks have been born but died before they were old enough to fly.