Condor Chick Update: Graduation Day!

As Condor Cam viewers may have noticed, our live-streaming view has changed to a new location. The camera is now showing our socialization yard where Tiyep now lives. The move brings him one step closer to his introduction to the wild. This is an exciting step for all of our condor ‘kids’—and the people that take care of them!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks up at the condor facility as we prepare for the quickly approaching 2021 breeding season. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get ready: the condor’s nest boxes that they’ve raised their chicks in need to be cleaned to prepare for a new chick, and all of their habitats (that we have been staying out of, in order to allow them to raise their little ones with limited human interaction) need to be looked at and spruced up. However, the work can’t begin until we move all of the kids out. So, last week we began the process of ‘graduating’ all of the 2020 condor chicks! We hatched six California condors this past year and all of them were ready to be placed in the socialization yard with an adult mentor. All of the young birds received wing tags (a simple process, similar to having your ear pierced) in order for us to be able to identify who is who. Here is a quick lineup of who you might see on Condor Cam:

This next step is very important in Tiyep’s  (and the other chicks’) education. Condors are very social animals and often interact with each other. But he and his young friends need to learn the “rules” in order to be successful once they are flying free. Their parents have done an excellent job of nurturing and keeping them safe until they fledged. Now it is Ojja’s job to continue their development.

  • Our mentor – Ojja (Oh-ja) (red head, no wing tags)
  • Tiyep (Tee-yep) – Blue 35 left wing
  • Kilamu (Kee-la-moo) – Red 09 right wing
  • Ikimin (Eee-kee-min) – Black 14 left wing
  • Kuna (Koo-nuh) – Green 15 right wing
  • Shumawish (Shoo-ma-wish) – Yellow 16 left wing
  • Swelte (Swell-tay) – White 23 right wing

As the mentor, Ojja will teach these young kids the rules of being a condor. The larger, more dominant, older and more experienced condors tend to claim the best and highest roosting locations and will push younger subordinates off food until they have had a chance to eat. This is what you will see happening on Condor Cam as well. You should often notice Ojja perched at the very top of one of our two perches with the younger birds on the lower branches—that’s her doing her job!

Tiyep will spend the next six months or so learning the ins and outs of being a grownup condor, while we monitor closely via camera and a two-way mirror in our observation blind. This allows us to ensure that he—and the other birds—is exhibiting all of the correct behaviors, which maximize the chance of success when he is released into California condor native range.

We are happy to report that Tiyep has settled into his new habitat nicely. He has been taking nice long flights from one perch to the next, bathing in one of two pools, and getting along well with the other youngsters. We hope you enjoy watching this new view of all of our 2020 hatches as they get one step closer to their release day! We’ll be checking in again with an update on when and where he will be released sometime in the fall of 2021. And of course, we look forward to starting and sharing all over again with a new little egg in the spring of 2021.

Erin Massey is a senior wildlife care specialist at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous blog, Leaving the Nest.