A decadeslong program to bring back the nearly extinct California condor has hit a milestone: The 1,000th condor chick hatched recently at southern Utah’s Zion National Park.
Park officials announced Tuesday that a female condor, No. 409, wearing the tag “9,” laid an egg in mid-March, and the chick hatched in May, in a nest on the cliffs just north of Angels Landing.
No. 409 and the chick’s father, No. 523 (tag “J3”), have been together for the past two years, ever since No. 409’s first mate, No. 337, died from lead poisoning in 2016.
The chick is No. 409’s third confirmed chick. Officials say they hope this chick will be her first to fledge, or develop wing feathers big enough for flight, sometime in November.
No. 409 hatched in 2006 at the San Diego Zoo. No. 523 hatched in 2009 at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. Both were released at the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument release site in Arizona, in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
In 1982, there were only 22 California condors in the wild. They were captured and held in captivity for safekeeping, as scientists launched a breeding program to reintroduce the species. The first birds were released back into the wild in 1992 in California, and 1996 in Arizona. The population now numbers more than 500, with half of them in the wild in Arizona, Utah, California and northern Mexico.
Each bird, hatching in captivity or in the wild, is given a studbook number to tell it apart from the others. This latest chick was given studbook number 1,000 — a “monumental milestone,” said Russ Norvell, coordinator of the avian conservation program for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
In a statement, Norvell said officials “applaud Zion National Park for their great stewardship of these particular birds.”
Zion is a member of the Southwest Condor Working Group, a consortium of state wildlife agencies in Utah and Arizona, along with federal agencies — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service — and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, which manages releases and day-to-day monitoring of the condor population.