Update, February 27, 2015: Idaho isn’t the only state keeping watch over new California Condor eggs. Condors have laid two eggs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, too. One was produced February 13. The egg will pip, or begin to hatch, in about 55 days. In the 1980s only 22 condors were left in the world. The Safari Park has now hatched 185 chicks and released more than 80 birds into the wild.
The 2015 breeding season for critically endangered California Condors got off to a strong start Monday, when three eggs were produced by the captive flock at the Peregrine Fund’s breeding facility in Boise, Idaho.
Marti Jenkins, who oversees the propagation program for the Peregrine Fund, observed the eggs on video cameras that are trained on each of the 16 pairs in the breeding population. The World Center for Birds of Prey is home to the world’s largest flock of captive condors.
“This is the most eggs I’ve seen on the first day of the season,” Jenkins said. “I am always thrilled to see them because it brings us that much closer to saving these magnificent birds from extinction.”
Over the next several weeks, Jenkins expects the birds to produce up to 20 eggs. When an egg is two weeks old, biologists determine whether a chick is growing inside. If it is fertile, the egg is artificially incubated until it is ready to hatch. It is then returned to adult condors for hatching, and they raise the chick for about a year.
Juveniles will join the wild flock at the Peregrine Fund’s release site at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona. Currently, the Arizona-Utah flock numbers 73, including two juveniles that hatched in the wild last spring and successfully fledged in the fall.
Eggs and birds at the Idaho facility are often swapped with those of its partners, the Los Angeles Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Oregon Zoo.
“This year we created new pairs and broke up old reliable pairs to promote genetic diversity in the small population,” Jenkins said. “We don’t yet know if our three new pairings will result in fertile eggs but we are hoping they will.”
Eggs produced this year in Idaho may end up in the nests of wild condors in California to replace eggs that are not viable.
The condor recovery program is conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
An intensive condor recovery program began in the early 1980s when the continuing decline of the condor population required drastic measures. By 1982, only 22 condors remained on Earth. The last birds were brought into captivity to launch a breeding program. The first releases to the wild occurred in California in 1992. The Peregrine Fund began raising condors in 1993 and releasing them to the wild in 1996.
Today, there are more than 400 California Condors. More than half of them fly free in the wild in Arizona, California, and Baja, Mexico.
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