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Condor portraits (Part 1) (1 Viewer)

pbgrebe

Member
I was a part of the team that conducted the first release of California condors at the Pinnacles National Monument Cal. condor reintroduction site in central California. I have lots of photos from that initial phase of the project. At some point in the future such photos will be of some historical interest so I’ve been looking for an appropriate place where I could share some of them—a place where they would be easily accessible to the public. I recently discovered this Birdforum site and it seems a good place for them.

I guess a good place to start is with portraits of the 7 condors (split among 2 posts) who were involved in this first release. Only 6 of these birds were actually released. The release group consisted of 6 one year old immature condors (all 6 were born in 2002 at the captive breeding facility at the San Diego Wild Animal Park). The 7th bird was an adult condor named Hoi (short for Hoinewut, a Chumash word). The 6 immature condors were housed with Hoi during their pre-release conditioning period. Hoi served as the mentor bird for the immatures, acting as a sort of guardian, keeping the youngsters in line and helping with their socialization (in the wild, condor chicks undergo a lengthy chick rearing process—typically, a condor pair has only a single chick and the chick rearing period stretches over the course of two breeding seasons; thus, a successful condor pair generally can raise only 2 chicks within a 4 year period). Hoi is the only one of the 7 who had a name. The other 6 were just known by their studbook numbers.

The condors were housed in and underwent their pre-release conditioning in a large, on site structure that we referred to simply as “the facility.” The facility was basically a large aviary that also contained numerous branches and a larger snag for perching, sheltering ledges, a large pool for drinking and bathing (the condors are fond of bathing), 6 smaller rooms in which individuals could be isolated and held if necessary, a double door trap (through which condors could be either released into or brought in from the wild), a dummy power line pole (this was used a means to help condition the birds against landing on power poles when released into the wild—it delivered a mild shock to any condor that tried to perch on it), and an observation room which contained one way viewing windows (so that we could see the birds but they couldn’t see us; the photos here were taken from within the observation room). The facility was located at the release site on a ridge top above Grassy Canyon.

The 6 immatures were not released into the wild all at once. The release of the individual birds was staggered over the period beginning on Dec. 20, 2003 through early 2004. The birds were released directly from the facility into the wild through the double door trap. Hoi was retained in the facility where he would mentor the next release group of immatures.

Note the distinct differences between the color and other physical features between the adult Hoi and the 6 dark immatures. It generally takes a condor 6 years to fully mature and acquire its adult features.
 

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fugl

Well-known member
Interesting stuff, thanks for posting. Seeing condors in the wild has long been on my bucket list—one of these days, maybe. . ..

I’ve been enjoying your Pied-billed Grebe book, by the way. I spent some time photographing a PB Grebe family at a Reno pond some years ago and your behavioral descriptions jibe well with my casual observations during that project.
 
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Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Interesting stuff, thanks for posting. Seeing condors in the wild has long been on my bucket list—one of these days, maybe. . ..

I’ve been enjoying your Pied-billed Grebe book, by the way. I spent some time photographing a PB Grebe family at a Reno pond some years ago and your behavioral descriptions jibe well with my casual observations during that project.

Mine too, a West Coast road trip has been something I've wanted to do for years, Canada to Mexico. I assume the 'Big Sur' birds are tickable? My daughter saw them easily from the viewpoint there and she's not a birder.
 

pbgrebe

Member
Fugl,

Yes, it's definitely worth the effort to get out there and see these awesome and endearing birds. It's quite a sight to see a condor spread its magnificent wings and climb high up in the sky like a small airplane! Takes your breath away! I got to know these individuals intimately so I can tell you that they have great character and personality. I also found that they are quite intelligent and function at a pretty high cognitive level. A reminder here that if you want to combine seeing condors with viewing another great natural wonder, remember that you can see California condors at the Grand Canyon.

Glad to see that there are others who have acknowledged and spent time observing PB grebes. It always amazes me that such a common, widely distributed species like the PB grebe can be so relatively anonymous. Thanks for your interest in my PB grebe families. Having immersed myself in their lives I developed a great deal of affection for them so it makes me feel good knowing that people like you are in a sense celebrating their existence by reading/learning their story.
 

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