A gut feeling that a pair of California condors had laid an egg in the upper reaches of Zion National Park has been confirmed with the first documented sighting of a condor chick born in Utah, an event biologists hope is the first step in the large birds reestablishing a presence in southern Utah.
Keith Day, regional wildlife biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the chick won't try to fly until November or December. California condors take about six months to fledge, he says. Their fledging period is the longest of any bird in North America.
According to the biologist, the adult condors will spend the next year raising the chick. California condors typically produce one chick every other year, he says, so they probably won't nest again until the early months of 2016.
Early last month the park announced that biologists had spotted a pair of condors they thought were exhibiting courtship and nesting behavior. Then, on June 25, the chick was spotted on the edge of the nest, which is about 1,000 feet above the canyon floor.
"Our top priorities are to allow the chick to grow and develop in a natural environment without significant human influence, keep it safe, and to protect park resources in the area where the chick is located," said Fred Armstrong, the chief of resource management and research at the park. "Those who are curious to see what the chick might look like should visit the condor camera at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The zoo had a condor hatch in their rearing facility within days of this wild-born condor."
The Peregrine Fund biologists found the nest by following radio and Global Positioning System signals from transmitters mounted on each of the chick's parents, according to park officials. They started keeping a close eye on the birds after the pair exhibited nesting behavior this past spring.
It was only a matter of time before the birds started nesting in Utah, says Chris Parish, condor field project supervisor with The Peregrine Fund. "There is great habitat in Utah. It didn't take long for the condors to find it," he said.
Working cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service, The Peregrine Fund has taken the lead on reintroducing and restoring this federally endangered species in northern Arizona and southern Utah.