GC VILLAGE — One of two California condor chicks believed to have been hatched at Grand Canyon National Park in late April apparently died around May 4. Wildlife biologists are unsure of the second chick’s status.
Biologists seek answers to the fate of two condor eggs laid at Grand Canyon late last month.
Chad Olson, National Park Service raptor biologist, said they’re not sure what happened but planned to get into the cave sites within the next couple of weeks. The nesting sites are located on two South Rim cliff faces in the Battleship and Dana Butte formations. Both cave sites, monitored by biologists from a plateau, are very difficult to reach.
"We believe both did hatch, based on activity," Olson said Thursday. "Within the last week on May 4, the Battleship nest probably failed. We’re pretty sure they had a chick because the activity was consistent with that until the 4th."
Since May 4, the condor parents at the Battleship site have visited the nest less frequently. Olson said they were in the cave for four hours on May 4, two hours on May 5, down to only nine minutes on May 7.
"They’re starting to move around, clearly they have failed," Olson said. "But they’re very young birds."
It’s not unexpected to see the condor chick’s failure to survive. Olson said the oldest condors are turning age 7 and chances for breeding success should be much better next year. Last year, an egg was hatched when the condors were 6, but that failure was not a surprise.
"It’s relatively unlikely we’ll have a chick this year, but we’ll have a better chance next year," Olson said.
Olson said nest activity also led biologists to believe there was a second chick at the Dana Butte site. As of Thursday, he said the Dana Butte nest was "still going strong."
The eggs were laid in February, incubated by both parents and hatching after approximately 56 days. It’s believed that one condor chick hatched from April 20-25 and the other one between April 25-30.
The Grand Canyon pairs are comprised of females hatched at San Diego Wild Animal Park and males hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo in spring 1995. All four birds were released to the wild in May 1997 at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, 50 miles north of their current South Rim location.
Despite the failure in Arizona, there is a condor chick in California that is nearly a month old. The California chick was the first condor born in the wild since 1984. The next site is located in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, northwest of Los Angeles.
As for other condors in the Grand Canyon area, Olson said a few birds have gotten themselves into trouble with curiosity. One condor, No. 224, was captured after a series of incidents in the Grand Canyon Village area.
On one occasion, condor 224 visited a snack bar location near the rim, reportedly got into trash cans and even went after a visitor’s shoe laces. There were varying reports on exactly what happened during that incident.
"All condors are very curious by nature," Olson said. "They’re very intelligent ... but these are naive condors with no parents."
Olson said the birds are constantly monitored in the developed areas and most do keep a distance from people. But he added, "we do have a handful of birds with the potential of doing things like 224."