Condor Chick: Lonely?

Saticoy continues to grow and thrive!

Some of our Condor Cam viewers have been worried that our growing chick, Saticoy, looks lonely and/or bored. California condors naturally have a one-egg clutch; in other words, there is never more than one chick in a nest. Although Saticoy may appear lonely to us, we need to keep in mind that his social requirements are much different from ours. Of course a human would be lonely being raised in isolation, but condors thrive in that situation: no competition from nest mates, ensuring plenty of food for growth; plenty of attention and preening and protection from both parents, facilitating the proper social skills for when it’s time to leave the nest; and reducing the amount of waste that can accumulate in a nest, reducing the possibilities for a parasite infestation.

Condor parents Sisquoc and Shatash visit Saticoy several times a day for feeding and social interaction, giving their youngster everything that he needs. If he was in distress, it would manifest in improper growth and unusual behaviors. Rest assured that he is in perfect health and showing excellent behaviors for a potential release candidate at this age, indicating to us that Sisquoc and Shatash are doing a textbook job!

As for giving him “toys” or enrichment items, the parents have provided several items in the nest for Saticoy to explore or play with: feathers, dried food items, bones, and cast hair pellets. We have seen Saticoy (as well as every other condor raised at the Safari Park) play with, sleep on, and re-distribute these items around the nest. Field observations have shown that condor chicks in wild nests in California, Arizona, and Mexico behave in the exact same manner. We don’t want to provide any unnaturally occurring items in the nest as playthings, as this would encourage him to seek out similar items if he is released to the wild, possibly putting him in harm’s way.

Please remember that we are trying to foster behaviors that wild condors would have: avoiding human activity and hazardous, artificial situations. Survival rates for condors that become accustomed to humans and human activity are very low. I hope you continue to enjoy watching Saticoy grow!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Condor Chick: First Health Exam.

80 Responses to Condor Chick: Lonely?

  1. thanks for that info. I didn’t realize all the items in the nest were given by keepers. I thought the feathers had fallen off the parents during visits. but I was wondering where the bones were coming from.

    • If you read the post again, you will see that the keepers did NOT give Saticoy his “toys.” They were provided by his parents. :)

    • I guess I read the blog too fast. it is the parents who gave toys to Saticoy (not keepers). how appropriate. he is so cute.
      I could see how his napping in the corner might appear sad to viewers. humans are punished by being sent to the corner. but I considered it like Saticoy may feel more secure in the corner b/c then he is surrounded on most sides. sometimes I wonder if Saticoy’s neck position while sleeping is actually comfortable but I gather a condor’s neck is extremely flexible in bending and rotation.

  2. Thanks for answers to the lonely saticoy questions.

  3. Thank you so much Ron for the great blog and clearing things up for us worry warts. We want what is best for this little guy, that’s for sure!

  4. Ron, thank.you for the great explanation of Saticoy’s behavior. He does seem to play with all the items on the floor that his parents have given him. He often looks longingly up at the ledge, seeming very anxious to get up there himself. I’ve noticed that he’s developing larger dark feathers on the undersides of his wings and his wings seem much sturdier now. What will happen once he can get up there but before he can actually fly? Is there any danger of him falling off and getting hurt or will his parents keep him safe there? His parents seem to be totally involved in his care. I hope you publish another blog about what you expect Saticoy to do in the next month or so. Thank you again for helping us understand California Condor childhood and reassuring us that he is completely normal.

  5. Hi Ron,
    Thank you so much for the answers concerning lonely Saticoy. And after reading your blog I do remember him playing and then laying on something he was intently looking at on the floor of his nest. Thank you, for letting us know that his parents bring him things to “do”. And I can see that in the wild, they don’t play like children, I guess that’s what he’s become to us. He sure is cute. He’s looking at the ledge right now, and it does look like he’s longing to be out there! Thank you again Ron for all the information on the parents and little guy. Have a good day.

  6. I was watching our beautiful Saticoy this morning and he was working his wings. Looks like he will be taking flight soon, very big and strong wings.

    Thank you for your updates, I really enjoy learning about these wonderful birds.

  7. He never looked lonely to me. He’s just preparing to soar by himself over the wild mountain ranges!

  8. What a funny position! Saticoy is sitting on his tail, with his wings outstretched and his little feeties out in front of him, he’s looks like he’s enjoying himself!

  9. I want to thank you also for the update and informative facts about the “little condor”. I watch him
    everyday and I was also worried that he was bored or looking for mom or dad. I was happy to find out that
    this is perfectly normal behavior and will continue to enjoy watching him grow! I started watching him as
    he was hatching and I am amazed at how quickly he has grown! He looks so comfy when he’s on his belly
    with his legs stretched out behind him.
    Thanks again.
    Linda

  10. Just wanted to thank ya’ll (that’s southern for you all) for the great work you do! Watching Saticoy pip, hatch
    and now grow, is not only educational but so much fun for us! Your explanation of how
    he is not actually lonely, just because WE believed he seemed lonely is much-appreciated.

    Thanks again to all of you, for everything you do to save species, and ensure our grandchildren will be able to enjoy such magnificent birds/animals!

    Sincerely,
    Karen

  11. I am happy to be able to be online today to see your response Ron to my worries… Thank you ever so much for educating me a little bit more about Condor raising!! I, like Poppy, Linda and Gayle am happy to learn that our little Saticoy is fine and doing just as he is supposed to. And boy oh boy!, he is growing so fast it just seems incredible to me. He is so cute to watch… I leave the cam on all day when I am home so that even when I can’t be sitting here in front of this contraption, passing by it allows me to catch him in some Condor antics anyway.

    Thanks for all the updates and info to help us “humans” learn more about how the other half lives.

    Michele

    • I leave it on all day at work too! My co workers love it! He’s so cute to watch.

  12. Dear Zoo,
    I think he looks real lonely. Any ways today Im going to go behind the scenes today !

    • Hey Brad,
      Let us know what you see today! Have a good time!

  13. I also been watching saticoy grow it is amazing how fast they grow up. My question is once he goes on his own like his other siblings (human terms) when they meet up in some time down the road do they know they are Mother, Father, and Son? thank you

  14. Good Morning!
    I was watching little Saticoy this morning at about 9am (central time) and it looked like he had spit something up, I wasn’t sure if his parent had given him something, it kinda looked like a berry (blackberry type). Just curious if this is a normal behavior for him? Have a good day.

    Moderator’s note: What you observed was most likely the chick casting a hair pellet. The parents, who are offering larger quantities of food per feeding session, provide a small amount of fur/hair in the chick’s diet as part of their diet includes rats and rabbits. Condors can digest just about every part of the animal they eat, except for fur. This fur accumulates in the digestive tract and is eventually regurgitated as waste. This is known as casting.

    • Thank you, I figured it was something like that, but didn’t know how to put it. Have a great day!

  15. Hi, everyone.
    Thanks so much for the updated info. I’m amazed at how attached I feel (and all of us, I’m sure) to little Saticoy. I’m excited that he’s developing well and may be able to live a normal condor life. I love watching him. Thanks for all the work you guys do there in preserving wildlife. I’m impressed and proud of you all..

  16. Is there an estimated date when Siticoy will leave the next for the first time? How long after he flies on his own will he stay in the nest before he is on his own? Haven’t seen the parents for several days. I’m sure they come and go to feed Siticoy. I probably tune in at the wrong times. Siticoy is so cute.

    • Condor chicks fledge at five to six months old. Saticoy will stay with Sisquoc and Shatash until he is about one year old. He will then graduate to the next level of condor schooling when we place him in a group of other young condors in preparation for possible release, down the road, into the wild.

    • Thank you for the update on when Siticoy will be flying on his own. I will also enjoy these last days of watching him grow and become a “MAN”. I also thought he was about to hop onto the ledge and take off. His mind wants to but his wings say not yet. Also thanks to the video crew for giving us this extrodinary glimps into the Condor world.

  17. He is growing by leaps and bounds every day; this is my first time to ever watch a Condor grow from an egg to subadult to adult and it has been quite exciting to watch (excuse the terminology; not sure of proper terms). Yes, I agree that he does look sad/lonely but if this is their natural way of growing up, then we need to do whatever it takes for him to survive in this harsh world. Thanks for the updates. :)

  18. About 10AM today, Sisquoc was in the nest box seemingly pecking at Saticoy, who was backed into a corner. What was that all about?????

    Moderator’s note: Perhaps Dad was giving his boy a cleaning?

    • Hmmm, Saticoy sure wasn’t happy about the cleaning! Typical “toddler”! ;-)

    • It’s hard to say for sure, but it could have been Sisquoc teaching Saticoy condor behavior or Sisquoc “playing” with Saticoy. Condor play isn’t what we would normally consider playtime; this interaction is meant to prepare him to know how to interact with other condors.

  19. So, I was watching Saticoy and he’s laying on his little belly with his legs out behind him. He sure has some funny ways of relaxing!

  20. Hello Ron,
    So I was wondering, is little Saticoy protected from preditors? Such as snakes? I mean I know you are trying and succeeding in conserving this wonderful species, but I would like to know if you/your staff can go above and beyond in helping in that respect?

    • The Condorminium, as we like to call it, is built just for this species, which means that the nest is not on ground level and therefore would be tough for a predator to reach it. The keepers keep the area tidy from the inside, and the parents do the same from the exterior. Saticoy and all other condor chicks are closely monitored all around.

      • Thank Ron,
        That helps a lot. I appreciate your information. I’ve never seen what the Condorminium looks like. I’m going to look online, now you’ve got me curious! ;) Thank you again.

  21. There seems to be a fair amount of food e.g., mice, on the ground for Saticoy. Do the parent birds bring it in? If so, do the keepers put it in the cage for the parents?

    • Yes, the parents bring in the food to the nest box. Keepers place food for the parents in their flight pen.

  22. What was Sisquoc doing this AM around 10 for half an hour? He was being very rough with Saticoy. Saticoy was trying to fend him off with beak and feet. Is that just teaching him to be a condor? I saw some of this behavior a few days ago.

    • Sisquoc may have been teaching Saticoy some condor behavior or he might have been “playing” with Saticoy. Condor play isn’t what we would normally consider playtime; this interaction is meant to prepare him to know how to interact with other condors.

    • I saw this yesterday too, and I was quite concerned and tense the whole time! I know the Condor team knows more about their behavior than I do (I know someone there was seeing the interaction as well, because the camera is moving/following the pair), it’s just that we probably got attached to our boy Saticoy. What I observed is that Saticoy seems to be excited for his mom (she did not came in, she just perched on the ledge); he was jumping and flapping his wings while mom was outside. But when dad was outside, lil’ Saticoy did not display this behavior. Could it be because dad is “rougher” on him than mom? I agree with the others above that Sisquoc seems rough, at one point he seems to be trying to pull out Saticoy’s wings! I even saw him kick/claw Saticoy twice. I did not see either parent feed the boy. Saticoy also seem relieved when Sisquoc left. Of course, I was rooting for Saticoy all the way in that “play/fight” with Sisquoc; I was thinking “yeah!” whenever Saticoy fights back against his dad! But anyway, thanks for the Condor team for letting us witness these behaviors and for all they’ve done for Condors. More power to the Condor team!

  23. The father and the son were staring at each other with a wall between them, at 16:18-23pm (central). Sisquoc had stayed right outside the nest box for a while, and extended his head once into the nest to look at Saticoy. Was he waiting for Saticoy to jump onto the wall? Or at least encouraging him to do so?
    I guess Saticoy is flying outside the nest anytime soon. Let’s enjoy watching him for the rest of his days under the camera!

    • Sisquoc may have just been keeping an eye on Saticoy, and as the chick gets older and his wings stronger, he is becoming more curious about his surroundings. We do expect Saticoy to begin to start peering out, maybe even sitting on that ledge, beginning at around three months old.

      • Thank you for the reply!
        Just 10 or so minutes ago (around 19:45 central), I saw Saticoy peeking out. And then he flapped his wings beautifully. It seemed like he wants to get out of the nest, knows how to do that, and is struggling to get the skill. I am going to love every moment that Saticoy is growing up.

        I really appreciate all the education you and your team have been doing for us. Great job!

  24. Do you still refer to the chick’s post-eating active times as “romp and frolic” behavior? I remember watching Sequoia in his nest tree in 1984, jumping all around and tossing feathers in the air. Looked like a regular wild rumpus in there.

  25. I was also surprised that when the dad was grooming Saticoy, Saticoy would peck back or withdraw suddenly. it was difficult to tell whether the dad was being aggressive while grooming or if Saticoy was being sensitive. I assumed it was a sign of getting more independent, that Saticoy was getting less tolerant of getting touched by parents but I don’t know.

  26. Keepers place food for Saticoy’s parents in their flight pen. Do they feed on alive animals (rats, rabbits)?

    Moderator’s note: No, the food is pre-killed.

  27. Once Saticoy is out of the nest, how does he learn to hunt for live animals? will he be released in the wild?

    • Hi Karen: From the Condor info page:
      “What do they eat?
      Condors are carrion feeders, not predators. They eat anything that is already dead, ranging
      in size from mice to whales. Here at the Safari Park, depending of the day, they get rats, rabbits, beef spleen, trout, and ground meat. Although they are able to eat rancid meat, they prefer fresh food.”

    • California condors do not hunt live animals. Instead, they use their keen sense of eyesight and observation to look for dead animals. Saticoy may be released to the wild, but we don’t know just yet. The decision will be made based on where he is needed genetically and if he learns proper condor social skills.

  28. I hope that school children have had a chance to tune in to the condor cam. It has been a real education to many.
    Thank you for the opportunity.

  29. Thanks Susan V.

  30. Just to let y’all know how wonderful a job is being done. There was a very nice story today on MSN about the California Condor population growth (except the lead ammo part). A giant thank you to all involved.
    P.S.
    Saticoy is just tooooo cute.

  31. I just looked in and he looks to be overly hot or somehow uncomfortable. If he were my budgie I’d think he was dying! Please explain!

    Condor Team responds: Young animals, just like human babies, get into these very comfortable and sometimes odd-looking positions because they are so relaxed. What you are seeing is unique because the public has never had a chance to see these kinds of behaviors like we have! Keep watching to learn what it means to be a condor.

  32. Is it possible to post some of these videos on youtube or the like? With work, I rarely get to see any interaction with the parents anymore.

    Moderator’s note: This website has a video section, where condor videos are posted: http://www.sandiegozooglobal.org/video

  33. Every time I look at that little bald head it makes me smile. Thank you so much Condor team not only for the cam but also for all the patience in answering our questions. :)

    • Hi Michelle!
      I like how you described Saticoy, “his little bald head” that is so cute, that’s the first thing I see! Don’t we just love his little bald head, thanks for that, it made me smile! ;)

  34. Are nest boxes or the comparable in the wild, used after condor chicks fledge? Where do adult condors rest/sleep in the wild?

    • Condor pairs tend to return to successful nests. The adults can use these for shelter, but they tend to perch in a tree or other structure on a regular basis when they don’t have a chick in the nest.

  35. hello…Im looking at Saticoy its 10:37 am and he looks like like he has a boo boo on his head, or is that something stuck to his head? I hope hes ok…

    Moderator’s note: It’s probably something stuck on his head. Please remember that our chicks are monitored via cameras throughout the day. If anything untoward is seen, keepers step in to help. He’s in great hands all around ;-)

  36. Wow! I just looked in on Saticoy (5/22; 12:05 p.m.) and he is standing next to the doorway with a parent on the other side. At first I thought I was seeing two adults. Did he just have a growth spurt?!

  37. His wingspan is very impressive at such a young age! When he gets them going they really stretch out far! And his big feet…too cute.

  38. this morning it seemed like Saticoy was getting cheeky (or hungry), pecking at his dad’s claws and a couple times Saticoy looked ready to pull out a couple of dad’s lower feathers. so maybe dad’s pecking at Saticoy is defensive or trying to remind him manners. I was surprised not to see Saticoy do the wing-begging as much if he was hungry but I may have missed his feeding.
    I keep expecting to see Saticoy hop onto the ledge. earlier in the week he was jumping while stretching his wings.
    if Saticoy gets to the ledge and falls over on the outside of the nest, would the parent or keeper replace Saticoy in the nest? would it just be assumed he would be able to return to the nest on his own?

    • In the 30 years we’ve been doing this, we have not had that happen. Keepers are ready to respond whenever a condor needs them.

    • Not sure of the time, but there was a parent on the ledge and Saticoy was right by the parents tail feathers and he acted as though he wanted to pull at those feathers sooooo bad, but then he kept acting as though he was thinking better of it! He was so cute. You could just see those little gears working in that little bald head of his. I just love watching him, thank you so much for letting us peek into their world!

  39. Not much has changed in the past week except that Saticoy seems like a bigger fluffball. He is so cute!! I love watching him when he relaxes and stretches out in all directions… and when he flaps his wings when a parent enters the enclosure. I can almost hear him saying “what did you bring me this time?” or “can we play?” I am so happy watching him grow!! TY to such a loving team of people who make it all possible!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  40. Why has the camera been in one position all day? I did get to see the tip of one of the parent’s beaks while they were feeding Saticoy, but it appears that no one has moved the camera all day (unless I just happen to look when our boy is in a particular corner). No matter. I enjoy seeing him for small moments,too. It’s just so wonderful to see how amazing each of God’s creatures has been made. Thank you for giving us such a great thing to see, not only the baby and his growth, but how each parent watches over him and takes care of him.

  41. Is there a reason why the camera appears to be off. I see only a blank screen.

  42. I now see Siticoy and mom.

  43. Thank you for the updates.

  44. Thanks for filling us in. Can you tell us at what age Saticoy can be released to the wild. This is a wonderful programm.

    • Usually 1 to 1.5 years of age.

  45. more and more feathers moving right along… Looks like all the fuzzy stuff
    will be gone soon.. I wonder once Saticoy leaves his nest, will we ever
    see this process again..with another condor on cam?

    Moderator’s note: We hope so!

  46. Is there any range of time during the day that I could try to catch Saticoy being fed? Or does it vary dramatically from day to day. Whenever I check in Saticoy seems to be sleeping (!)

    Moderator’s note: He’s being fed right now (10:15 a.m.) ;-)

    • There is no real schedule. As the chick has grown, the number of feedings per day has dramatically dropped. Probably earlier in the morning, 8 to 10 a.m., after the food has recently been put out would be a good bet. And yes, much like puppies and other growing creatures, sleep is a big part of a chick’s life.

  47. YAY! Oh and by the way…once Saticoy is outside will you follow him on cam?
    Or is that it? I am hooked on looking at this condor..I hope to see him again
    (smile)

    • Condor Cam is only set up in the nest. If we can offer another view, we will.

  48. Good Morning!
    Can someone fix the cam please, we can’t see our little bald head! Thank you.

    • Thank you, I can see him now!

  49. Hello,
    Can someone please move the cam, is there a certain time you move that blurry covering? Maybe I just tune in too soon! Thanks.

  50. Oh, please move the cam, so we can see Saticoy try to jump on the ledge! Thank you.

  51. How will he transition from being fed by mom and dad to eating on his own?

  52. I so much love little Saticoy and how darn cute he is. Right now he is lounging on his front w/skinny little legs/feet ackwardly moving around. His wings are kind of spread out but not fully. Very cute.

  53. Since I’ve been watching since day one, thought I should add my thanks to the team and to those who keep the cam running. It’s great to watch Saticoy grow. Like others, I love his various sleeping positions, especially the belly down, legs straight out behind, and wings spread. If the nest is 8 feet square, aren’t his wings when spread almost touching each side?
    Thanks again for the cam and your answers to viewers questions.