California Condor Breeding Season Soars

The California Condor Breeding Season Soars, as San Diego Zoo Safari Park Welcomes Fourth Critically Endangered Condor Chick

The condor conservation program at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is in full flight, as animal care staff welcomes a fourth condor hatchling this breeding season. This is the fourth successful hatching within past two weeks, with a fifth chick set to hatch this weekend. Animal care staff will perform health checks on all of the chicks over the next few months and will use DNA testing to determine the gender of each bird. Animal care staff said four to eight chicks are hatched at the Safari Park every year, and they are happy this season has started out so well.

“This is an exciting time for us here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park­­—watching each endangered chick emerge and the world’s population of condors continue to grow,” said Michael Mace, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Most of the chicks hatching this season will be released into their native habitat approximately a year from now. Every chick that’s hatched is moving this species further away from extinction.”

Guests can get a glimpse of one of this year’s young condor chicks and its parents by viewing San Diego Zoo Global’s live Condor Cam.

California condors are listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Their main threat comes from environmental toxins, such as lead. Condors are scavengers, so when they eat animals that have been killed by gunshot, the condors end up consuming lead from the bullets, as well. Since lead is a very soft metal, it can be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in lead poisoning. Other threats include collisions with power lines and indiscriminate shooting.

In the early 1980s, scientists counted only 22 California condors left in the world. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked San Diego Zoo Global to step in to safeguard the California condor, in an effort to save the species from imminent extinction. The first successful reproduction of the condors in a breeding center happened in 1988 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—and to date, the organization has hatched more than 188 chicks and released more than 130 birds. Thanks to the hard work of conservationists at the Safari Park and other conservation organizations across the United States, there are currently more than 450 California condors, more than half of which are flying free in California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, Mexico.