Condor Chick Season Has Begun

The 2021 condor breeding season is officially in full swing! San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s Condor Cam has made the switch from a view of last year’s chicks, including Tiyep, back to the nest camera view featuring his parents Siwon and Sola and their brand-new baby!

For any new viewers to the Condor Cam, let’s start by introducing you to the parents.

The male is named Siwon (pronounced “SEE-won”) and the female is named Sola (pronounced “SO-lah”).

Siwon hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 1993. In 1997, he moved to the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Once he matured, he was paired with a female named Haku. Together they produced nine chicks. In 2014, he returned to the Safari Park to pair with a new female, Sola. You can identify Siwon by his blue #85 wing tag.

Sola also hatched at the Safari Park, but in 2008. She moved to the San Diego Zoo in 2009 to be part of the first group of condors to live in the new Elephant Odyssey habitat. In 2012, she moved back to the Safari Park to live at Condor Ridge. Two years later, she was introduced to Siwon. Sola does not have a wing tag.

This is the pair’s seventh breeding season together! They are excellent parents, and we enjoy watching them work together to raise their chicks just as much as Condor Cam viewers.

Sola laid her own egg in the late afternoon of February 7. Shortly after, wildlife care specialists quietly entered the nest box while both birds were out in their habitat eating, and expertly exchanged the real egg for an artificial egg. This is a common practice with many bird species, especially a critically endangered species such as the California condor, to ensure the safety of the egg as it develops.

This condor egg was the fourth laid this year, and everything was right on track for an early April hatch. However, the decision was made to give a different egg from another condor pair, due a little earlier, to Siwon and Sola for them to foster-rear. Their original egg was then given to another condor pair in need of an egg. This allows us to maximize the number of chicks raised by condors at one time. Keeping all of our pairs of condors busy and raising chicks is good news for everyone!

The soon-to-hatch egg was returned to Siwon and Sola, after it was determined to be in the correct position for hatching on March 20, while the soon-to-be parents were busy out in the habitat eating breakfast. The egg was quietly swapped with the artificial egg given to them in February. The condor chick hatched late in the afternoon on Thursday, March 22, with the help of Sola.

Condor parents are very attentive for the chick’s first few weeks of life. They take turns brooding, or keeping the chick warm. Both parents share this responsibility, but it’s not uncommon to see both birds sleeping side by side, with the chick somewhere in between. As the chick gets older and the weather warms up, Condor Cam viewers will begin to notice that the chick is often left alone. This is normal behavior for our birds—but not to worry, there is normally a parent just off camera standing watch. 

We look forward to watching this little one grow. Tune in for your daily dose of cuteness as we see it testing out those fuzzy wings and exploring its habitat here at the Safari Park!

Erin Massey is a senior wildlife care specialist at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.