First California Condor Chick of the Season Hatches at San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Earliest Hatching Ever Recorded

Today, cameras at the condor breeding facility at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park provided a look at the first California condor chick of the breeding season, which usually runs from early January through late April. The 2-week-old chick hatched Feb. 10, 2016, making it the earliest hatching on record—and the only California condor chick in the world right now.

Since the condor chick—named Swayin, meaning “winter” in the native Chumash language—hatched, its mom, Pismo; and first-time dad, Xas (pronounced “Haas”); have been caring for the chick around-the-clock, cleaning it, feeding it and keeping it warm. As Swayin gets older, the parents will begin to leave the nest for longer periods of time.

About 45 days after hatching, the chick will receive its first veterinary exam. Blood samples will be taken during the exam and sent to the lab at the Safari Park, to determine whether the chick is female or male.

“This chick is significant because it represents the earliest hatching on record,” said Ron Webb, senior bird keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “The cameras provide us an opportunity to watch the condors remotely, without disturbing their natural behaviors.”

The California Condor Recovery Program is implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, zoos in the U.S. and Mexico, and U.S. and Mexican government agencies. Although listed by the federal government as an endangered species in 1967, the California condor population continued to decline, reaching a critical low of less than two dozen birds. In 1982, the condor breeding program was successfully established at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. Today, two additional breeding centers are assisting with the recovery of the species, at the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey and the Oregon Zoo. In addition, condors are part of an education program that allows guests at the San Diego Zoo, the Santa Barbara Zoo and Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo to see North America’s largest bird up close.

In the 1980s, there were only 22 California condors left in the wild. To date, the Safari Park has hatched 188 chicks and released more than 130 birds into their natural habitat. Currently, there are more than 420 California condors, more than half of which are flying free in California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.