A Female Flock

The Santa Barbara Zoo’s condors are still part of the recovery program and wear wing tags that identify them as individuals. The lower the number, the older the bird.

174

  • Hatched at San Diego Safari Park in March 1998, arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo in October 2012
  • Immediately became the dominant bird as oldest member of the flock
  • Raised three chicks while in the captive breeding program at Oregon Zoo
  • Her three offspring were all released in central California and are flying free today

327

  • Hatched at San Diego Safari Park in April 2004, released into the wild in at Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona, in March 2007
  • Was fed by campers and repeatedly returned to campgrounds, in spite of efforts to discourage and retrain her
  • Removed from the wild after two years; arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo in January 2010
  • Serves as a mentor to Zoo’s younger birds as they mature into adults

524

  • Hatched at San Diego Safari Park in May 2009
  • Has “founder birds” as grandparents; all were among last wild condors brought in for captive breeding at the start of condor recovery efforts: AC9 (21) and AC8 (12) on her father’s side, and AC2 (6) and AC3 (10) on her mother’s side
  • Arrived at Santa Barbara Zoo in November 2017 and immediately changed the flock’s dynamics
  • Called “pushy” by keepers as she is the “first in and the last out” during feedings
  • Tries to chase away older, more dominant birds during feedings

603

  • Hatched in April 2011 in Big Sur, but removed from the wild at two months old for lead poisoning and micro-trash ingestion treatment
  • Has lost full use of her left wing, making it too risky for her to return to the wild
  • Still manages to get around the exhibit, using what keepers call “creative flying”
  • Is lowest in the flock’s “pecking order”

Condor Cam

LIVE from Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.

A rare look inside the nest of a California condor chick on live-streaming nest cam. Watch the six-month process as chick 923 grows and is cared for by dedicated parents, female 289 and male 374. Fledging, or first flight from the nest, is expected in October or November 2018.

Watch Live!
FROM THE KEEPERS

You may see one condor nip another, but they never really hurt each other. This is part of their lifestyle. Actually, it’s more like another language. They try to push each other off branches to show dominance, but it really comes out when they are feeding. Top bird 174 controls who eats when and what they get to eat. Our newest bird 524 jumps around and tries to eat all the food, but 174 keeps her in line.

Carol H.

Condor Nest Watch

The Santa Barbara Zoo helps monitor wild condors nesting near Hopper Mountain and Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuges, located in Ventura and Kern counties, respectively. Volunteers and staff from the Zoo and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service observe condor nests as part of a long-term study to see if there are differences in parenting styles of wild-reared condors versus captive-reared condors, among other factors.

Wing Tags Decoded

Wing tags allow us to tell the birds apart, but also embodies this essential point: with California condors still critically endangered, each bird is vital to conservation.

Starting with first wild birds studied in the 1980s, each condor hatched is given a sequential number which now appears on their wing tags. Condors in the wild also have VHF transmitters sewn into their tags.

Tags have two numbers large enough to be read with binoculars from across a canyon or in the sky, and to tell them apart here at the Zoo. The colors denote hundreds (see chart below).

The Zoo’s oldest bird, 174, hatched in 2008 – her tag is red (100s) with “74.” Condor 603, hatched more recently in 2011, has a purple tag (denoting 600s) with “3.”

Researchers may need another color soon, as the consecutive numbers could top 800. That’s good news for condor conservation!

Note: These ID numbers don’t total the birds alive today – they represent every bird, alive or deceased, since California condor studies began.

Wing Tag Colors for the Southern California Condor Flock

Red

100s

Yellow

200s

Blue

300s

White

400s

Black

500s

Purple

600s

Green

700s

Hot Pink

800s

Brown

900s

Conservation Status

In 1982, the world’s population of California condors dropped to just 22 individuals. By 1987, the few remaining wild condors had been captured for a captive breeding program. Today, there are more than 400 condors in the world, with more than half flying free in the wild. But there is still work to be done: the IUCN lists them as “Critically Endangered.”

Don’t Feed Wildlife!

Some animals are naturally curious, like California condors. But it is not a good idea to feed wildlife. While young and impressionable, condor 327 was fed by humans in the wild, and then associated people with food. That is a potentially harmful behavior, for humans, condor 327, and the rest of the condor flock. It’s the same with raccoons, deer, and other wildlife you might encounter. Help keep wild animals wild…don’t feed wildlife.