Condor Chick: Preparing to Fledge

Saticoy, now 123 days old, gazes at that ledge.

One of my favorite sayings is “Boring is good.” When things are boring, everything is going according to plan; excitement is often the result of something going awry. As many Condor Cam viewers have experienced, the rearing process for a California condor can be long and slow—some may even say boring. It makes sense, though, for a condor to develop so slowly. It has lots of growing to do. When our chick, Saticoy, hatched, he weighed approximately 6.3 ounces (180 grams). When he reaches his fledge weight of 17 pounds (8 kilograms) or more, he will have increased his hatch weight times 44! (I have only increased my birth weight times 19.)

On June 28, at 111 days of age, Saticoy took his most recent step toward leaving the nest: he jumped up onto the barrier between his nest box and the adjoining roost area. He quickly hopped back into his nest, but that’s okay. There’s no hurry to fledge, or leave the nest, just yet; his feathers still need time to fill in all the way. In the meantime, hopping up and down from the barrier exercises his muscles and improves his balance. Any day now, he will hop into the roost area on the other side of the barrier. Here, he can look into the flight pen where his parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, are and will be able to warm himself in the sun, if he so chooses.

The next step of Saticoy’s journey will be to fledge. When he is ready, he will jump off of the 8-foot-tall (2.4 meters) nest ledge. He will either slow his fall to the ground below the ledge or fly to a nearby perch. We consider him fledged when he can get up on a perch by himself. The youngest we have seen a condor chick fledge here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is 123 days old (Saticoy is 123 days old on July 10). Sometimes chicks have waited until over 165 days. It all depends on the chick.

The parents tend to be very vigilant during this phase of their chick’s development. It could appear over-protective to us, but keep in mind that they have invested an entire breeding season and lots of energy into this one chick. It benefits them greatly to make sure that their sole offspring is safe, healthy, and strong. The parents will usually perch and/or roost near the fledgling. They also will join him when he finally starts going to the feeding area of the flight pen. Most of the time, though, they will push him aside and eat first, feeding him when they are done. In condor culture, the bigger, more dominant birds usually eat first, while the subordinate birds wait their turn. The earlier Saticoy learns this from his parents, the better he will assimilate into a wild population after he is released. Don’t worry! Sisquoc and Shatash won’t let Saticoy starve. They will continue to feed him even when he is out in the flight pen. Eventually, he will eat more and more on his own.

Depending on Saticoy’s development and activity levels, we will switch the Condor Cam view from the nest box/roost area to the flight pen. You’ll be able to see the roost area, most of the perches in the pen, the feeding area, shade areas created by plants, and the pool, where he can either drink on his own or bathe (one of my favorite condor activities to observe!). The view will be wide, so detail will be harder to discern. Also, we do minimal maintenance in the pen once the chick is large enough to look over the nest box barrier, so the pen has lots of plant growth and dried food (animal carcasses) in it. We limit our activities in/near chick pens so as not to expose the chick to humans, thus desensitizing them to our presence. We have found that chicks raised in isolation from humans tend to be more successful once they are released to the wild. The flight pen won’t look as nice as an exhibit you might see at the Zoo or the Safari Park, but Sisquoc and Shatash prefer it that way, if it means we stay away from their precious chick!

Thanks so much to all of our faithful and dedicated Condor Cam viewers. Soon, your support and devotion will be rewarded when our “little big guy” spreads his wings and takes that next step. Rest assured, though, that Saticoy’s story will be far from over!

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

76 Responses to Condor Chick: Preparing to Fledge

  1. It was exciting to see Saticoy go to the ledge and into the roosting area. He is growing up so fast and such a delight to watch. I am excited for him to begin his next phase in life which is to fly. Question, do the staff at your facility conduct training exercises with Sisquoc and Shatash? By the way, the both of them are excellent and caring parents.

    • Sisquoc is conditioned to enter a shift pen to eat. If we need to access the nest box (to check on an egg, give Saticoy his health exam, repair a camera), we can close Sisquoc in the shift pen so he cannot see his nest, to keep him calm. He really doesn’t like us near his nest area, so the calmer we keep him, the better. Other than that, we don’t conduct any training exercises for the parents. All of their parenting skills are self-taught!

  2. I have learned so much about these birds and I thank you for you time educating us, it’s very interesting and I have become a HUGE condor fan.

  3. Hi Ron: Your updates on Saticoy are very appreciated! It was so thrilling and touching to see Saticoy in the roost area with either Sisquoc or Shatash laying close by, watching over him. They are great parents, as you have mentioned. We are all excited that you will be aiming the cam on the flight pen; how exciting will that be to our “little boy” take flight. WOW!

  4. Thank you for the very informative update. It has been a fun journey watching our boy so far and I look forward to seeing him in the flight pen.

  5. Great idea that you will switch the Condor Cam view from the nest box/roost area to the flight pen.!!!!
    Thanks you for the new post!!

  6. thanks for sharing that post. Saticoy looks like such a big boy now. his rate of development feels fairly fast just recently. I sometimes see Saticoy on the other side of the ledge hanging out with a parent. nice to know that after he fledges, the camera will still be able to show what he’s doing.

  7. Ron:

    I just read your note regarding moving the cam for us to see Saticoy’s new world. This will be “great”. Can’t wait. When I first logged on this a.m. all I saw was the outside of the den and thought how great it would be to see the outside. Then I read about the cam going outside. This has been a once in a lifetime experience watching Saticoy and his parents tenderly caring for their “baby”. Can’t wait until this cycle starts again next winter.

    You and the crew have been wonderful to allow us the priveledge peeking into your world. You have a great job and I envy you.

  8. Thanks for the update Ron. Love this cam and am so happy to hear that you will move it outside when he fledges. I just hope you have it up again next year. I and a lot others have enjoyed watching Saticoy hatch and grow.

  9. Great idea that you will switch the Condor Cam view from the nest box/roost area to the flight pen!!!!
    Thank you very much for your post
    Congratulations!!

  10. Watching the condor cam has been so much fun for the past four months, and the experience has become more interesting every step of the way thanks to the blog posts explaining what we’re seeing and reassuring us that the behaviors we’ve observed are normal, such as the ways in which Sisquoc and Shatash discipline Saticoy. It has given me a new appreciation for how delicate the balance between man’s intervention and nature has to be in order to have restored the condors in the wild to the point they have reached so far. Living in an area where the back country is home to this species makes this experience even more interesting for me and I appreciate the countless hours that have been spent trying to keep the camera focused on the stars of the show and giving us information to assure us that all is well and progressing normally. Thank you for this opportunity.

  11. It’s been a real privilege to be able to watch the hatching and development of Saticoy from our home in Barnet, north london, England. You just don’t get to see this kind of thing normally. He certainly is a fine chick, love him to bits. Looking forward to watching more of his time with you.

  12. Hi Ron and Condor staff!
    I would like to join and say “thank you” also for a great look into the lives of these great birds! I never knew that so much went on inside the nest. I’m waiting anxiously for the camera to be on the “outside view” so we can see Saticoy’s ongoing life and to see how he will interact with his parents in the wild. Thank you again. So excited!

    Moderator’s note: You are most welcome, Gayle. Please note that Saticoy will not be in the wild with his parents but rather in a flight pen with them ;-)

    • Ron,
      Thank you for your reply, I should have put parentheses around wild, but I didn’t want to overdue it ;). (I guess I knew he would be with his parents for a while before he was released). Thank you again for all you and your staff have done to bring these beautiful birds to our lives, it’s been a fun 4 months to see this family grow. I look forward to watching everyday.

  13. I would be grateful if someone could record and post some short video clip of his fledging. As much as I would like to watch I have to leave the computer often. I remember when the very first condor egg hatched at the SDZ. (born and lived 37 years in SD) I still can remember the pictures of the puppet used to feed it. And I was proud for us when I see them flying at the Grand Canyon. Amazing that you all were able to bring them back.

  14. How is exactly the flight pen?

    Moderator’s note: Do you want to know how large it is?

    • Yes. Which is the space in which Satycoy’s parents moves?

      Moderator’s note: The nest box and roosting platform is in the flight pen where his parents live.

  15. Thank you so very much for this great educational opportunity you have provided via the Condor Cam! I’ve watched Saticoy every day, and am amazed at all that has gone on since his hatching! Now I can’t wait to see how he continues to develop when he’s in the flight pen with his parents. And they are SUCH great parents! I am so thankful for having learned so much about the life of a Condor family!

  16. Watching Saticoy develop from an egg to the magnificent young bird he is today has been a great experience. Because Saticoy will still be using the nesting box for a while, I have been wondering if it would be possible to add a second “Condor” site, and camera, on your server to provide pictures of both the nest box and the flight pen or a split screen on a single port.

    Thanks again for this amazing experience.

    Don

    Moderator’s note: Your suggestion would be wonderful to implement, Don, but our budget does not allow for cam additions at this time.

  17. It’s been a wonderful four months. I’ve grown to love condors. I’ve wanted him to leave the nest but now that he’s gone, I’m going to miss him. Thanks for giving everyone the opportunity to be part of his family.

  18. Ron and staff,
    I used to think that all scavenger birds were just ugly birds. Your camcorder story has completely reversed my judgment. Saticoy and his parents are beautiful, charming and so endearing to watch. Your comments add to my enjoyment. Thank you so much for enriching my experience.

  19. Thanks so much for the update. I can’t wait for the next steps in Saticoy’s life. It has been very exciting and yes at times, very boring, but that’s ok, it’s part of the growing up process. :)

  20. An exciting day for Saticoy. Following parent around from nest to perch. During one feeding it looked like parent tried to drag Saticoy by his beak toward the light :) Later, parent tried coaxing him outside, but Saticoy chickened out (?) and hopped to the floor, lowering his head to try to hide, but wings are itching to fly!

  21. I think it is funny that even when Saticoy is outside of the nest, he seems to like to rest facing a wall or cozied into a corner. but better yet, he seems to like resting next to a parent.

  22. Thank you all for giving us this site. The new BIG VIEW is great! I check in here every day, many times.

  23. Hi, I was wondering if Saticoy is out of the nest now. I usually get online in the early evening to see him, but for the past 2 nites he hasn’t been where the camera is pointed. Just concerned and miss seeing him. Thanks for all you do to let us watch him. You are the BEST! Joel~}

  24. it is 11-43 eastern time 7-18-12 Saticoy is laying on his back and Dad is doing something to his stomach pecking or whatever. Is he being discipline? if it was wonder what he did so wrong. there is poop all over the wall he must of got it scared out of him any info on this will be greathly appreciated thank you

  25. will you be putting a band on Saticoy – when will that happen? .. have loved having the opportunity to watch the condorcam – awesome!

  26. Hi,

    Where is Saticoy? I’ve been checking all day today and have not seen him. Did his dad hurt him, as Donna asked above?

    Moderator’s note: He’s there now and looks just fine.

  27. WOW!!! About time that there’s a comment page for the condors! My first comment on this page! Thanks!
    I have known about the California condors for years since I was a kid, and the major problems that these raptors have experienced with declining numbers and the pesticide problems. Now, It’s great to see that these condors are making a huge comeback thanks to the breeding and reintro programs at SDZ and the other organizations that are doing a great job getting these birds back into the wild over the last 20-30 years. The Cal condors are flying over Cal skies again!
    I missed seeing Saticoy hatch and grow up! I just got back on the condorcam a couple of weeks ago, and he’s already 4 months old! I hope that you have a photo gallery and/or videos of Saticoy hatching and growing over the last 4 months. Just watched him on the cam tonite jump up on the nestbox ledge then hop on the roost board. He looks like he’s about ready to fly out of there soon. I watched him look around wondering whether his mom or dad will be giving him his dinner.
    Got a question: do condors only lay one egg a year, or do they mate and have a second egg before winter sets in? And , do they lay only one egg or can the mom have 2 eggs in the nest? Just wanting to know how these birds tick!
    Congrats on your successful program at SDZ!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  28. is it typical for some condors to have a fluffy collar area and some do not? it seems like Saticoy’s collar feathers are growing in. one of the website photos shows an adult with fluffy collar feathers. but the last time I was looking at Sisquoc it seems like he doesn’t have a distinguishable collar area. do adults grow out of that look?

    I skip some days and whenever I come back to Saticoy I am amazed by his growth. he is such a big, sweet condor boy.

  29. in LA, the mild sunsets remind me of Shatash’s (sp) head colors. the more dramatic sunsets remind me of Sisquoc’s head colors.

  30. Saticoy is looking more and more like the condor he is and will be. I find myself smiling every time I see him. Thank you for the gift of watching him hatch and grow.

  31. I think Saticoy may have just left the roost area, but I can’t tell for sure. Maybe we need the next camera angle!

  32. Never mind my previous note. Saticoy came back on camera about 3:10 p.m. Pacific Standard time. Gee, I thought I might have seen him fledge!

  33. 3:54 EST, father and son are napping together. Looks nice and peaceful, I wonder if the parents are trying to wean Saticoy away from the nest, he seems to not want to fledge! Both mom and dad have been with him off and on most of the day. Very labor intensive parenting going on!

  34. Did Saticoy fledge out of his nest box?? I didn’t see him on the condorcam late today! He’s a grown up boy now!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  35. So very proud and excited to see Saticoy on the brink of freedom! Though we will miss him dearly! I have along with everyone else here made a habit to view and check in daily with our condor family. Hope this wasnt covered already, but how often do the condors have a chick? I am eager for the next chick, as I have learned so much, and love our condor more and more :)

  36. Just saw Saticoy on the condorcam totally relaxed today! Still wondering if he did some flying outside his nest box yesterday! He’s looking pretty good, tho!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  37. Thank you Ron and the team. I have been watching since day 1 from Australia and cant wait for the new camera into the flight pen. Myself and my friends all wait in anticipation to Saticoy taking his first flight. Hello Carla in Argentina.

  38. I’ve been checking the cam everyday hoping for an update. I’ve been seeing quite a bit of jumping and hopping around along with wing flapping going on. Has our little guy made the big jump yet? It will be fun to watch him out in the bigger yard doing what condors do.

  39. I keep checking the cam everyday hoping to see an update about the fledge. I am seeing a lot of jumping and hopping along with some pretty vigorous wing flapping. I’m also seeing the parents quite a bit. It will be fun to watch Saticoy when he expands his area to include perches and the yard.

  40. Every time I turn on my computer I find myself checking on Saticoy before i check my email. An amazing young fellow.

    In response to an earlier email, you mentioned that the addition of another camera in the flight pen was not in the budget. I was wondering what such an addition would cost and would the Zoo consider setting up a Saticoy Condor Cam account on PayPal to see if those of us who enjoy watching Saticoy can help you acquire a new camera, or two. We may be a bit late to watch Saticoy’s Big Day, but we’d be ready and waiting when his brother or sister come along

    Don.

    Moderator’s note: Thanks for the great suggestion; I’ll pass it along.

    • Add my thumbs up vote for a PayPal Condor Cam account for viewer contibutions to fund a new additional camera(s) :)

      • A PayPal Condor Cam account? Cool idea!

    • Hi, Don. I just wanted to comment on your post. I find myself doing the same thing everyday when I log on to my computer. I’ve got to go first to check on Saticoy. I’ve been watching since he hatched and just love it. I feel so attached to him. Also, wanted to say I like your suggestion about donating towards a camera or two, if it’s possible. I would love to be able to watch him and the others when they are outside.

  41. I have missed seeing the “little”fellow and I am wondering if he has taken flight yet? I became a bird watcher when Carlos Royal started the owl box saga. Watching inside the box for eggs, them featherless tiny owlets to full grown owl all in the cycle of life. Condor chicks grow so big so fast! Fly Saticoy! Thanks SD Zoo!

  42. I like watching Saticoy interact with his parents most of all. but I still think it’s cute when he is resting in the nest in his awkward Saticoy positions.

  43. Yeah! I finally got a chance to see Saticoy and his dad again today. It looks as though most of Saticoy’s flight feathers have grown in, so he will probably be leaving the nest and roost areas soon. I’m glad he is taking a little extra time and we can still see him up close for a bit longer. It appears he is spending time out on the ledge in the sun, so Saticoy is out of camera sight a lot of the time now. His doting parents and fans are all watching and waiting with anticipation!

  44. Little Saticoy’s feathers look a little scroungy. His parents keep preening him and he keeps getting mad at them – funny. Also yesterday he was practicing hoping and stretching his wings – hop – hop – hop. So very cute.

  45. haven’t logged in for awhile, Saticoy has grown!! Good to see that he is getting ready to fledge, though we will miss him though.
    a few questions: Does he come back to the nest once he has flown away? Or is there a perching area-or is it an enclosed aviary like area?
    Hope you have time to answer, thanks.

    Moderator’s note: The nest is in an enclosed aviary, so it will be easy for Saticoy to return to it if he wants to.

  46. It’s August 1, and I haven’t seen him; has he fledged?

    Condor Team: Not yet!

  47. Hi, all. So glad he’s on camera today. I’ve missed him the past few days and was afraid he wouldn’t be back if he had fledged. After he fledges, will we be able to see him? Will he come back to this area he’s in now?

    I love the color he is now. But I guess that will change over time, right? I get such a kick out of watching him when his parents are near. It’s like he’s trying to tell them “I’m a big boy now. Leave me alone.”

    Thank you again for the work you do and letting us watch. It’s been such a thrill. And I think getting another camera or two is a great idea, if we can all pitch in to support it.

    Moderator’s note: Saticoy will still be in the flight pen with his parents for now. We’re glad you’re enjoying watching this condor grow!

  48. Hello! I have been enjoying seeing Saticoy grow up. How will you know when he fledges? How long do the parents usually wait to lay another egg?

    Condor Team responds: Saticoy will fledge when he takes his first flight out of the nest, which should be soon! We can’t put a date on it, because it is up to him. So keep watching. He will revisit the nest after he takes his first flight, but he will now be flying in and out of the nest. Before November, Saticoy will graduate to the socialization pen, where he will meet other condors and be prepared for possible future release. His parents will then likely begin courtship. An egg could be laid sometime between December and April. Change is in the wind in condor land!

  49. I just saw you scan the nest, and we can see the roost, but no Saticoy! Has he fledged?
    Thanks ever so much for all the delightful hours watching our boy grow. I’ve been logging in from the time he hatched. Thank goodness for long summer days, so we have viewing time in the evening.

  50. I do not have idea of how it is the flight pen. There are photos?

    Moderator’s note: I’ll see if we have some photos of it.

    • If you look down below the cam on that page you will see in one photo a perch just outside the roost area which is at one end of the flight pen. If I recall correctly there is another perch near the other end too. So that would allow the birds to fly back and forth to exercise their wings I would think. As well as graessy areas below with bushes around the perimeter. Mind you this is just what I can recall from seeing what used to be on the Condor Cam before we as viewers were given the great priviledge of being able to watch Saticoy’s life adventure so far

      Moderator’s note: Good recall, Donna!

  51. wow, from the back Saticoy looks nearly the same size as Shatash. I didn’t quite recognize him until he brought his head up. he has grown a lot in the last 2-3 weeks.

  52. Why does Saticoy still sleep so much, especially around 10 or 11am. He doesn’t seem to have much pep or desire to explore outside his nest but I can’t tell what he is looking at on the ledge. Has he flown yet or still ‘just lookin’?

    Moderator’s note: He has not flown yet. Instead, he climbs up and down a pole to explore. We’ll share more about this soon.

  53. It seems like our boy is in no particular hurry to fledge. :)

  54. I agree with mosaic world–Saticoy looks as big, if not bigger, than his parents! His parents are being very patient with him. It appears he is getting independent and doesn’t want his parents grooming him anymore–has he hit adolescence?

    I was wondering if condors talk to each other with sounds as well as body movements. You told us the baby chicks make a lot of noise, but do they still squawk, or whatever, when they grow up?

    Thanks again for all your updates and responses. They are truly appreciated!

    Condor Team responds: He is becoming independent indeed. Condors of all ages don’t make a lot sounds, but they can and do hiss. Most of their communication comes from body posturing. Dominant birds push others out of the way. A young bird only needs to see a mature one moving with a certain stride toward them to know they need to move away from their favorite perch or food, for example. Keep watching, and you’ll likely start to catch on to some of that body language.

  55. I’ve been watching Saticoy during the past hour and have watched both parents on the ledge with him. Seems Saticoy is afraid of Mom and Dad, of course Mom did give him a jolt by pecking at him. After some staring each other down, Saticoy decided he was heading for his nest, where he kept looking out the door at the parents. Odd behavior, isn’t it? You can almost hear the parents saying “Isn’t it about time you left home?”.

  56. I’ve been meaning to ask about how the condors and other animals are identified at the zoo and in the conservation programs. For example, in addition to the wing tags on the condor males, are microchips and/or a tattoo also used in these programs?

    On another subject, is there any possibility of moving the camera to a location just outside the nest door so that it could pan and zoom for pictures inside the nest and also catch more of Saticoy when he outside the nest?

    I’ve really enjoyed watching him, but now that he spending more time out of the nest, and out of sight, he’s not in the camera range/view as much anymore.

    Since we’re talking about cameras, I’ve been wondering how the zoo’s cameras are operated, via cable or an IP wireless arrangement? Also, has anyone had time to compute the cost of an additional camera for the condor flight pen?

    Thanks again for the amazing opportunity of watching Saticoy grow up.

    .

    • Animals are identified by different methods depending on the species. Unfortunately, we are not able to move the camera out of the den at this time. We hope to make some modifications for the next chick, but we don’t know yet what those changes will be.

  57. Does Saticoy have a micro-chip? I am already having empty nest symptoms, I will miss him! I have been viewing the baby Panda too! Thank you zoo crew for all that you do for this world!!! GOD bless you all! I check in daily with all your cams :)

    Moderator’s note: Yes, Saticoy has a micrchip.

  58. is Saticoy now feeding himself sometimes or does he get most of his food still from his parents? I have not been following the condor cam as frequently and am unaware of his current behavior. also I gather that he is not feeling rushed to fledge. it appears he is around the 165 day range (described in the post for previous chicks who tended to fledge later). have keepers ever had to encourage a chick to fledge (or is that not keeping with the hands-off approach)?

    • He is beginning to feed himself and starting to move toward fledging. So far, the chicks have always fledged without our help. Each individual bird is a little different; Saticoy isn’t too far from the norm.

  59. Since I have no idea about the lay-out of the roost area, where does Saticoy stay when he is not inside the nest or when he is not on videocam range? Is the roost area a big one that can accomodate his Mom and Dad too; i.e., the three of them all at the same time? Also where does he get his food if he has not fledged yet? Do you leave his food near where he can feed himeself, i.e., the roost area? I thought that you only left food in the flight pen. I still would not want him to fledge since I will miss him around. I have followed him since he was a “fake” egg. Sorry for all these inquiries, and thank you so much for giving us the pleasure of watching Saticoy grow up to be strong and healthy.

  60. I seldom see Saticoy anymore, has he fledged?

  61. Has something happened to the camera, I haven’t seen the nest box the last few days I’ve checked in? I miss seeing the big “little fellow”.

    Best Regards,

    Condor Team: Saticoy is spending more and more time outdoors, so the camera is pointed at the perch.

    Don

  62. What’s happening? Any news? I miss seeing Saticoy, & Mom & Dad!

  63. Is there a problem with the cam, it seems to be positioned on the wall inside the nest area?

    Moderator’s note: Thanks for letting us know. The Cam has been adjusted back to the nest box opening.

  64. Ron, you wrote “Depending on Saticoy’s development and activity levels, we will switch the Condor Cam view from the nest box/roost area to the flight pen. You’ll be able to see the roost area, most of the perches in the pen, the feeding area, shade areas created by plants, and the pool, where he can either drink on his own or bathe (one of my favorite condor activities to observe!). The view will be wide, so detail will be harder to discern.” Will this be done?

    Regards

    • Unfortunately, we have technical problems that are not allowing us to hook up to the outdoor camera. We hope to correct this, but we don’t know when that may occur.

  65. You’re welcome, however it still appears to be positioned at the wall and I’ve tried refreshing several times.

    Moderator’s note: Okay now?

  66. This is my first time here.. WOW .. a Condor cam – How cool. The only problem is — I see nothing!