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Social condors (1 Viewer)


[This is a continuation of my previous posts (Condor portraits) in which I am sharing photos relating to the first group of California condors to be released at the Pinnacles National Monument condor reintroduction site.]

While individual California condors do spend time ranging alone, they are basically quite social birds. In fact, in regard to their social nature they remind me of primates. There is a stereotypical image of vultures among the general public in which they view them simply as dirty, nasty birds who gather around a putrid carcass and hiss at each other. This is an unfair mischaracterization of these complex, intelligent birds. Condors do have their share of aggressive, agonistic interactions among themselves. However, there is also an amicable, gentle and even tender side to their nature. This was frequently on display among the 6 immature condors of the first release group and Hoi (their adult mentor) during their pre-release conditioning period. It was common to see individuals of the group interacting amicably, engaging in play and mutual preening, and often just lying peacefully together in close, physical contact. Some photos are included here to illustrate this and to serve as a counter to the crude stereotype noted above.

One photo shows condors 286 and 266 peacefully lying together in close physical contact. A second photo shows three of the birds (266, 287 and 270) lying together in a heap and engaging in quiet play. In a third photo a group of 5 of the immatures (all but 266) are seen grouped tightly together, amicably interacting. A fourth photo shows that even the adult mentor (Hoi) engaged in these amicable interactions—in this photo 287 and Hoi are peacefully lying together as 287 preens Hoi.

By the point when the time for their release into the wild had arrived, the 6 immatures had become strongly bonded and comprised a solidly bonded group. This proved to be a significant asset for this first release group whose unnatural path toward becoming successful wild condors differed drastically from the natural situation experienced by wild-born condor chicks and even from individuals of subsequent release groups. As noted in my previous post, wild-born condor chicks undergo a lengthy chick rearing process that typically stretches over the course of two breeding seasons. Thus, over the course of this period wild-born chicks receive the benefit of parental assistance, guidance and tutelage in learning how to survive in the wild as well as for learning about and integrating into condor society. The 6 captive-born immatures from this first release group had to do without this significant benefit of parental assistance. Further exacerbating the difficulty they faced was the fact that being the first group released at a new reintroduction site also meant that there wouldn’t even be any other experienced free-living condors present from whom they could receive some mentoring and who they could observe, follow and learn from. Upon their release into the wild these 6 immatures were completely on their own [though, of course, we provided food for and monitored them and Hoi (still housed in the facility at the release site) continued to serve as a social magnet for the youngsters]. This is where being such a solidly bonded group served as such a significant asset for these youngsters. It was fascinating and even touching to see how they drew from this bonding, how they leaned on, clung together and aided each other. Note also that as the only free-living condors present here (i.e., until subsequent releases here and eventual linkage with free-flying individuals from the other reintroduction sites to the south), regardless of whatever inadequacies they possessed, they comprised ‘condor society’ at this locale. In this respect they had only the basic societal structure that their mentor Hoi had instilled upon them during their pre-release conditioning period.


  • 286 and 266-1.JPG
    286 and 266-1.JPG
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  • 266,287,270 interacting-2.JPG
    266,287,270 interacting-2.JPG
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  • Group interacting-270, 265, 278, 287, 286.JPG
    Group interacting-270, 265, 278, 287, 286.JPG
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  • 287 and Hoi.JPG
    287 and Hoi.JPG
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