critically endangered California Condor chick hatched at the Oregon Zoo on
April 11, but not without a little help.
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.
Photo Credits: Michael Durham for Oregon Zoo
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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