A Feathered 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.

860

  • Female, hatched on March 31, 2017
  • Sibling to male 946
  • Reared by parents
  • Will remain at SBZ until age 6–8, and will go on to breed elsewhere

870

  • Female, hatched on April 18, 2017
  • Hatched at Los Angeles Zoo
  • Has some peculiarities in her ability to fly, possibly due to early-in-life spinal injury

872

  • Male, hatched on April 20, 2017
  • Hatched at Peregrine Fund, World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, ID
  • Transferred to SBZ during COVID-19 due to reduced field work

946

  • Male, hatched on May 29, 2018
  • Was hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo
  • Sibling to 860

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. Camera footage provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Watch Live!

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.