A new baby Northern Spotted Condor hatched in California from chick-birthing eggs laid outside, along with a sibling chick of a mother born during a decades-long captive breeding program.
The pair hatched Thursday afternoon, but may have lasted less than an hour – likely because of difficulties with proximity from climate change during this highly dynamic window of life.
The feathered denizens of the Northern California condor preserve, which is supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service and the California Condor Recovery Program, said the pair was discovered on Saturday with a second young flock of condors.
Habitat and infrastructure has worsened for condors as temperatures have increased worldwide, scientists said.
Climate change is also driving condors further from their breeding base in Santa Barbara and San Diego counties. In the past few years, researchers have seen vast declines in condor success and long-term drought conditions in Northern California, which could have contributed to the birth of the siblings, the research team said.
“Condors are returning to Northern California to find food, habitat and warmer temperatures,” said Rachel Bailey, a UC Davis vertebrate ecologist who is the leader of the Center for Cascades-Arctic Research. “This shows we are now moving toward a future where climate change can effect the success of young condors on islands such as these.”
As in the rest of North America, condors rely on forest foraging, like caribou and moose, which are the target for flights of birds about three to five miles each way. The condor is a medium-sized bird, with a wingspan of nearly five feet. Its long, slender tail was long before the invention of kites, or flying kites.
Condors are migratory, and annually make their yearly 2,000-mile journey to wintering ground at Big Sur. An adult male buys condors from their parents when they nest in remote areas, sometimes in locations that have not been studied or documented before, such as paddocks and barns, although the birds may also enter the case of an orphaned bird.
The staff from the Center for Cascades-Arctic Research started working in 2005 to assist researchers studying nesting pairs of condors. The new flock was nestled in the north wilds of the Santa Ynez Mountains between coastal Bodega Bay and Big Sur.
“The nests in Big Sur have been a magical place to work for our team of biologists,” said Frank Sousa, who is the Cascades-Arctic Research scientific director. “We have worked alongside my parents and grandfather, working the same habitat, and sharing the same pride of seeing condors breed and help grow a wider community.”