Zion National Park

June 5, 2014 by  

Zion National Park, – A cooperative venture between wildlife conservation and public land management agencies excitedly and optimistically reports that a California condor has apparently hatched in the wild in the state of Utah for the first time since an experimental population was released in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona in 1996. Biologists are waiting to visually confirm the chick’s existence before the milestone becomes official, but recent behaviors by the adult pair are encouraging. Captive bred condors continue to be released in northern Arizona and have successfully nested there; however, they have been spending more time in Utah each year.

“It was only a matter of time before birds started nesting in Utah,” said Chris Parish, Condor Field Project Supervisor with The Peregrine Fund. “There is great habitat in Utah and the condors did not take long to find it.”

The Peregrine Fund is the lead organization in the northern Arizona, southern Utah area working cooperatively with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and the National Park Service in the reintroduction and recovery of this federally endangered species.

The condor pair self-selected a nesting cavity in a remote canyon within Zion National Park and has been under observation by TPF biologists since the condor pair began exhibiting courtship behavior this past winter. The nest cave was found by following radio and GPS signals from transmitters mounted on each condor. Earlier this year, the birds displayed behavior indicating they were incubating an egg and now show signs that they are tending a chick. Basically, this means one adult stays in the nest cave caring for the egg or chick while the other forages widely. They trade these roles every two-to-three days.

“The cavity is 1,000 feet above the canyon floor so no one has yet had direct observation of a chick. If the egg had not been viable, or if a hatchling had died, there would be no reason for the adult condor pair to continue to visit this cavity,” said Eddie Feltes, TPF Condor Project manager.

“This is a significant milestone in the process of restoring a species to its historical habitat,” said Keith Day, wildlife biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “It proves that Utah still has suitable habitat for these magnificent birds and that the selection of the Arizona-Utah region for establishing a population was a valid choice.”

As condors continue to select suitable habitat and reproduce in this area, they will serve as a safety net against catastrophic events that may occur within the other condor recovery populations in California and Mexico.

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