Condors have been in trouble since the arrival of hunting around 1900, when their population plunged to only about 60 breeding pairs scattered across roughly 450,000 acres in California.
As awareness of their plight increased, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Humane Society of the United States created a program of intensive captive breeding, which has led to recent scientific improvement in the population. Last year, the population was found to be more than 900 nesting pairs, which was more than double the previous population estimate.
As part of the advancement, CondorWatch, a non-profit conservation group, has been releasing captive-bred young birds into the wild around Sacramento, California, to help restore the population. The two young condors that hatched at Wells Gray Condor Preserve in Irwindale on March 27 have been named Bassett and Georgie after their parents, Gwyneth and Georgie.
[The birds] then hatched in a waterproof gliding nest in a wooded area, and were returned home for their first days on the ground, caring for their eggs. CondorWatch staff will monitor the newborns for the next few weeks, and biologists and volunteers will measure and take blood tests for signs of infection and skin abnormalities, in the hopes of studying their development and developing behavior.
In previous years, such chicks were born in a captive pen, but now CondorWatch’s focus is on finding a large enough area to enable new parents and mother birds to spend time outdoors together for good.
CondorWatch is hosting a successful fundraiser at the end of April with a live auction, but would rather see the new birds be raised, then released into the wild when they are old enough.
A source of concern is the huge costs of raising birds.
CondorWatch spokesman Patrick Burns said there are a number of good programs like this, where species are being protected and conserved.
“I believe this is the first case where a condor is being hatched in a virgin birth, and the first time a female has laid eggs in the wild,” Mr. Burns said. “In our news release, we said that, but the good news is the chicks are not out of the home and doing well. They’re doing just fine, and this is a very exciting moment.”
This article has been revised to correct some typographical errors.