Condor

Rare Condor Chick Hatches at Cincinnati Zoo

Condor_chick (1)Photo: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is excited to announce that a rare Andean Condor chick has been spotted with parents, Gryph and Laurel. This is the first chick, of this species, to hatch in Cincinnati in 30 years and only the fourteenth to hatch in any North American institution in the past decade.

They are a naturally slow breeding species (averaging one chick every other year). “This is mostly because the chick stays dependent on both parents longer than other bird species,” said Kim Klosterman, Senior Aviculture Keeper at the Cincinnati Zoo. “Andean Condor chicks will not attempt to leave the nest until they are close to six months of age.”

The Zoo’s Condor pair has been laying one egg per year since 2008 but did not produce a chick until now! The success may have something to do with the installation of a nesting chamber in 2014. The 300-pound box, built by Zoo volunteers, was designed to provide a more secure, cave-in-a-cliff-like environment for the birds.

“The chick, a female, is about six weeks old and appears to be growing at a normal rate,” said Klosterman, who was able to pull the chick for a quick exam a few weeks ago. “It’s difficult to get a good look inside the nest box, but we know that the food we put in there has been disappearing quickly. In fact, we recently increased the Condors’ usual diet (which includes rodents, rabbits, goats and fish).”

 

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) will determine the chick’s future. She will remain at the Cincinnati Zoo, in the Condor exhibit, with her 34-yr-old parents until the SSP decides to send her to another facility for breeding or to Cincinnati Zoo’s off-site facility to be conditioned for release into the wild.

The Cincinnati Zoo has participated in conservation efforts and the AZA’s breeding program for this endangered species since 1989 and operates a staging site for North American-hatched Andean Condors destined for release.   In the summer of 2013, a breeding pair was moved from the Zoo’s staging facility to Colombia, where they were released and, soon after, produced chicks. “When they reproduce, that tells me that we are doing something right. That’s the gauge of success,” said Klosterman.

Andean Condors, a type of vulture, typically stand around four feet tall and can weigh as much as 33 pounds. Thanks to its massive wingspan of 10.5 feet, this species can rightly claim the title of the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere. They are currently listed as “Endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and as “Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Zoo Rescue Operation Saves Endangered Condor Chick

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A critically endangered California Condor chick hatched at the Oregon Zoo on April 11, but not without a little help.

Zookeepers and veterinarians performed an emergency “assisted hatch,” helping the little bird out of its egg and into the world. The chick had become stuck in the wrong position for hatching, unable to move inside its shell, and would not have survived much longer without the intervention.

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Photo Credits:  Michael Durham for Oregon Zoo

“We only do this as a last resort,” said Kelli Walker, the zoo’s lead Condor keeper. “It’s kind of the Condor equivalent to an emergency C-section. There are so few of these birds in the world that each new chick is incredibly important to the recovery of the species.”

The egg, laid on February 14, had been placed in an incubator to keep it safe until the hatch, while the Condor parents, Malibu and Maluk, sat on a dummy egg. Usually, Walker waits for the chick to begin rotating in its shell, then returns the egg to its nest to hatch beneath the parents. This egg, though, proved unusual.

On April 7, monitoring the egg through a process called candling — using a bright light source behind the egg to show details through the shell — Walker could see that the chick was getting ready to hatch. At this point, keepers can usually see a “pip,” or mark, inside the shell, where the chick has begun chiseling its way out, but no internal pip was visible.  

The next day, Walker saw that the chick was turned 180 degrees from normal hatching position. Because it was able to breathe and was still getting nutrition from the egg, Walker waited to see if it would rotate properly, but two days later there was still no change. The chick was stuck. 

Growing concerned, Walker contacted zoo veterinarian Mitch Finnegan. Realizing that the chick would be unable to hatch alone, the two gently removed a portion of the shell and the chick popped its head out.

After a health checkup and a night spent in ICU, the chick was placed in the shell of a nonfertile egg Walker had saved from the previous year, and swapped for the dummy egg in the parents’ nest box.

“The chick was extremely mad and vocal, which is good,” Walker said. “I think Maluk must have heard it vocalizing, because he came into the nest area right away and started brooding. The chick seems to be doing well and is very active.”

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First Condor Chick of Season at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Wesa, a two-week-old California Condor chick, hatched on February 24, 2013, making this chick the first of the season at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Wesa has maintained a healthy weight and has quite an appetite according to keepers, eating up to 15 mice daily.

Ron Webb, a San Diego Zoo Safari Park senior Condor keeper, has been monitoring Wesa closely and has been puppet rearing the chick as part of preparing Wesa to be released into the wild one day.

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Photo credits: Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

 

"The puppet is like a fancy glove," said Rob Webb, senior Condor keeper, "It covers our hands so the chick does not get any beneficial experiences from people. We do not want it imprinting on people or getting used to us when it goes out into the wild.  We want it to be a nice, wild animal, not relying on people for food."

Wesa is a part of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park's highly successful California Condor breeding program.  Since the California Condor Recovery Program began in the 1980s, when there were only 22 condors left in the world, the Safari Park has hatched 173 chicks and released more than 80 birds into the wild. Today, there are over 400 condors, half of which are flying free at release sites in Baja California, Mexico, California and Arizona.


Bald is Beautiful for Andean Condor Chicks

Germany’s Potzberg Wildpark has been a hotbed of Andean Condor hatchings, and 2012 is no exception.  Two chicks hatched to parents Josephine and Napoleon in June.  A male hatched on June 2 and a female on June 28.  Since 2009, the pair has produced eight chicks.
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When Josephine laid her first egg, she and Napoleon fought in the nest.  To avoid damage to the egg, zoo keepers separated Napoleon from his mate.  But once it came time to brood her egg, Josephine ignored it.  Keepers then removed the egg and incubated it artificially.

The Andean Condor chicks are growing fast.  About the size of a tennis ball at birth, the chicks grow to the size of a basketball by four weeks of age.   As adults, the males have a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet (320 cm) and weigh up to 33 pounds (15 g).  Adult female condors have deep red eyes.

In most birds of prey, it’s difficult to determine a hatchling’s gender, but with Andean Condors, it’s easy.  Males sport a comb on their heads, while females do not.  The chicks are hand fed every three hours and enjoy cozy indoor quarters, where keepers keep a close eye on them. 

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