Condor Chick: Fledged!

Saticoy, front, and dad Sisquoc hang out in front of the nest box.

The interest and enthusiasm over the hatch and growth of our California condor chick, Saticoy, have been wonderful. We really appreciate all of the comments and questions we have received throughout his development. The two hottest questions right now are “Has Saticoy fledged (left the nest) yet?” and “When can we see into the flight pen to watch him fly?”

Since our last blog entry, we have received some news regarding the pending switch from the nest box camera view to the flight pen camera view. I am sorry to report that, due to technical issues, we will not be able to show you a view of the flight pen. The existing pen camera is no longer compatible with our web cam setup. We hope to rectify this issue before next breeding season so you can see the next stage in a condor’s development. If you don’t see anybody, you can assume that they are either out in the pen or on the ledge of the roost.

Our condor nest boxes are elevated: they’re on the second floor of the condor breeding facility at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The nests have one entrance that leads to the roost area. The entrance has an 18-inch barrier at the base to prevent young hatchlings from wandering out of our camera’s view. This barrier also provides exercise for the chick when it is big enough to start jumping up onto the barrier. The roost area is open to the flight pen and has a ledge that is about 8 feet (2.4 meters) off of the ground. There is a 5-inch-diameter (13 centimeters) pole leaning from the ground to the ledge; we call this the pole ladder. The condors can walk up or down this pole ladder to get to or from the nest; they can, of course, fly to the nest if they desire as well.

We consider a California condor chick to be fledged when it can fly to the higher perches in the pen, approximately 10 feet (3 meters) off the ground. When condor chicks fledge, they tend to be around 140 or 150 days old. The youngest bird to fledge here at the Safari Park was 123 days old. Our boy, Saticoy, has taken his own sweet time. He had been spending time perched on the roost with his parents. On August 6 (age 150 days), he walked down the pole ladder and started to explore the ground of the flight pen. His mother, Shatash, flew to the ground and protectively escorted him around, not letting him venture too far into the pen. He and Mom nibbled on some old food, drank from the pool, and stretched their wings in the sun. Later that day, he walked back up the pole ladder, accompanied by his dad, Sisquoc. Although it was an exciting day, full of new experiences, he didn’t fly.

In the flight pen, there is a large olive tree, where Sisquoc and Shatash like to perch. During one of his strolls into the pen on August 10 (age 154 days), Saticoy was able to climb up into the olive tree to perch with Sisquoc. He stayed there until the next day, spending his first night away from the familiarity of the nest. Mom and Dad roosted right next to him to keep a watchful eye. Despite another big day, he still didn’t fly, so no fledge.

On August 19 (age 163 days), after several days of walking around the pen, splashing in the pool, climbing in the olive tree, and starting to pick at food on his own, Saticoy FINALLY took the next step. He made a glorious 20-foot-long (6 meters) flight from the olive tree to the high perch. He landed next to Sisquoc, and for about two hours father and son sat high in the pen and sunned themselves. Saticoy had finally fledged!

When condor chicks fledge in the wild, it can be a long process as well. They often walk around the mouth of their nest cave, hopping about, testing their wings. They may hop or climb into nearby shrubs or trees to get a better vantage point. Very seldom do chicks just spring forth from their nest into the wild blue yonder. They usually need to exercise and build their abilities before embarking on such a dangerous venture. Mom and Dad are always present to escort or protect the chicks, too. Parent condors can be very vigilant and defensive of their chicks. After all, much energy and many resources went into producing just this one chick, so they try very hard to ensure success for their only nestling. One pair of condors in California actually chased a black bear away from their nest!

So what’s next for Saticoy? He’ll stay in the pen with his parents for a little while longer. He is still learning from them. In the wild, condor chicks stay with or around their parents for up to 18 months. We don’t let them stay that long here at the Park. If we did, the next breeding season would probably be compromised; the presence of the fledgling may prevent the parents from breeding the next year, or the parents may turn aggressive to the chick if they try to nest again. Soon, Saticoy will be removed from his parents so they can prepare for the next breeding season, and he will be introduced to other birds his age and an adult bird to act as a behavioral mentor.

In the meantime, it will be decided whether he will be a candidate for release in the wild (and where) or held back for the captive breeding program. I’ll keep you informed when this happens. Thanks again for all of your support. We couldn’t do it without you!

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

35 Responses to Condor Chick: Fledged!

  1. HOORAY!!! Wonderful news, so happy for Saticoy. It must be exciting for him now to be out with Mom and Dad. Thanks for the update and the special care you people provide to these precious creatures.

  2. congrats on Saticoy’s fledging. it seemed pretty imminent from the past few days. thanks for the informative post. hope Shatash and Sisquoc or another pair will breed soon (as long as Saticoy is OK). will miss Saticoy and his funny, cute mannerisms.

  3. Does this mean that Saticoy will not come back to the nest box or roost again? Should I stop watching? How do you separate Saticoy from his parents/get him out of the cage? Are the parents upset when he is first removed?

    Moderator’s note: He still comes to the nest box, as you can see from the screen capture taken today.

  4. Oh, that’s too bad about the camera I was very much looking forward to seeing Saticoy and his parents in the flight pen.

    Thank you all providing an awesome opportunity to watch Saticoy grow. Really, I can’t believe I how much I enjoyed checking in on him.

    Does the condor cam shut down for a while until the next breeding season? Which is when?

    • Yes, Condor Cam will shut down. It will restart when the parents lay another egg. An egg could be laid as early as the New Year time frame (that’s very early) and as late as May.

  5. Thanks for the latest picture and response to my question. Thanks also for the beautiful description of Saticoy going through the fledging process. I almost felt I was there watching him and his parents. You, Ron, and the other keepers are the best. Wish we had the other camera, but at least we have you to keep us informed.

  6. Thank you so much for the cam and for all of the great information about the Condors! Guess I will need to make a trek down to San Diego soon to check them out in person : ) I look forward to seeing “our” next baby!

    Moderator’s note: Yes, indeed!

  7. Bad you notify it of the camera. Will it be possible that a video appears on the initial flights of Saticoy?

    • We hope to get some video of Saticoy in flight within the next few days and will share it with his fans.

  8. Thank you so much Ron, and the rest of the Condor Team. I am very sad that the Cam will stop operating soon. I am still on it , even now, from 6 AM to 5 PM daily, even if I sometimes don’t see anything but the wall of the nest box. I will miss Saticoy and his Mom and Dad, who so loved and cared for their lone offspring.
    Please let us know when the next egg will be laid and I will faithfully follow through the entire breeding season.
    You all did a very good job showing us Saticoy’s development to a fledging. Wonderful!

  9. I am so happy to see that Saticoy has finally decided to fly. I am familiar with the Condor area at the Park because I have hiked up there … a long time ago. Well, I remember a cage with some condors in a visitors area. If I come to the park will I be able to see Saticoy and his parents in their enclosure? Thank you for all your posts and answers to our questions.

    Moderator’s note: The Safari Park does have a condor exhibit, called Condor Ridge, where our guests can see these magnificent birds up close. Much further up that hill is our off-exhibit “Condorminiums” where the rest of our condors reside, including Saticoy and his parents. Guests taking the Safari Park’s Flightline Safari are driven past the Condorminiums on their way to the launch deck.

  10. Good-bye Saticoy. It was a taste to know yourself and to meet for 6 months every day. I am sure that you will be a great condor and, in your moment, you will have a couple and will take care and instruct your chicks

  11. for cam viewers, in case you are interested in learning more about condors, I’m sharing resources I’ve found.

    “Condor: To the Brink and Back–The Life and Times of One Giant Bird” by John Nielsen
    California Condors and Native Cultures (Robert Mesta for the Grand Canyon Field Institute)
    Condors of Canyon Country (Sophie Osborn for the Grand Canyon Field Institute)

  12. recently posted a few condor cam pix to the San Diego Zoo Global facebook page.
    forgot to note the photo dates but they’re mostly around 7/24/12 or 7/30/12. first-time condor nest watcher. first-time empty nester. luckily there’s also a baby panda cam and soon there will be a baby elephant walking around.

    Moderator’s note: Thank you, mosaic_world. I’ll forward this info to our facebook guru. Our cams can sure keep an animal lover busy!

  13. Congratulations to Saticoy and the team. You’ve done a great job in letting us watch Saticoy and reporting the progress and answering questions. It’s been such an amazing joy to watch him grow. I’m going to miss seeing him SO much. I truly do have that sad “empty-nest” feeling. I sure wish I could see him fly. I hope that, maybe in the future, you can set a camera up to watch all the condors. And if you could post a video of Saticoy, that would be really wonderful. So, goodbye for now to our “baby”, Saticoy. Best wishes to him, his parents and to all of the team.

  14. I am happy Saticoy has flown. I hope someday he will fly free and raise lots of condor chicks. Watching him from pip to his leaving the nest has been a highlight of 85 years of having a love affair with all animals and birds and reptiles. I grew up with my Dad’s stories and pictures of a bear he raised from cub to the end of her life years later. We had monkeys by the half dozen, a pet goat, rabbits, cats, finches and parakeets, horses, tortoise and quail. Also was friends with a fox in Sequoia. I raised 2 litters of tree squirrels and many Siamese cats. As a parent the kids and grandkids and I have had guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, mice, snakes, horned toads, cats and tortoises. So please know Saticoy is really a special memory with all the animals I have known. Thank you so much for this happy memory. I hope to watch the next one that is ready to hatch. God bless you all for your work to save the condors. It is wonderful when I see them fly free.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing Saticoy’s adventure with us. I noted with interest that you had viewers from other countries around the world. You provided a great service. Thanks.

  16. I’ve really enjoyed watching and have learned alot.. Wondered if he had fledged since I seemed to be missing him alot. Just woke up to the fact that there was a new post. I too think it would be great to see a video. Could you post limks to baby panda cam and elephant when available? Looking forward to new baby condor. He certainly will be missed.

    Moderator’s note: We’re glad you’ve enjoyed watching Saticoy! For access to our other four cams, go to our Video page and you’ll see links to each cam in the subnavigation bar. Happy viewing!

  17. I was fortunate enough to see Sisquoc and Shatash in the roost area today. Is Saticoy still with his parents, or are they already starting to think about having another chick?

  18. Is it possible to post still photos of the flight pen or olive tree? My daughter and I have been watching Saticoy from the beginning and miss him and his parents.


  19. Wow! Is that a new camera inside the flight cage? I see two adults, not Saticoy, but it is a great view. I always wondered what Saticoy was “climbing” up an down. Great view.

  20. Thank you for view of Condor’s yard! I recall it from before. Everything enjoyed!

  21. Wow! Thank you for the view of the flight pen, what a pleasant surprise! I haven’t seen Saticoy yet but mom was in the tree when I tuned in, I’m in Michigan so it was only 6 am in Ca yet light. Amazing to see the location of the nest and the pole ladder. I do wonder how food is delivered without Saticoy seeing the person? Or maybe I’ll see that happen? Thanks again

  22. I was overjoyed to see the flight pen when I checked today! May I assume I am seeing the nest box in the upper left-hand corner? Thank you so much for enabling us to continue to watch Saticoy’s growth. I see two condors this morning, but cannot tell if one of them is Saticoy. He is such a big boy now!

  23. What a wonderful surprise to see the flight pen! I don’t see the condors at this moment, but I am sure that they will come into view. I’m so hapy that our viewing adventure is not over.

  24. What a wonderful report. I could “see” Saticoy taking his first flight. People thought I was crazy when I told them I was watching a “cute” baby condor, but once they saw him, they changed their minds. They thought he was definitely cute. Thank you so much for having a camera on him so we were able to watch him grow. The day he finally flew was my late mother’s birthday, so that day’s flight will remain a happy memory for me for that date. Thanks again.

    Moderator’s note: Thank you for sharing your story, Judy! May you continue to enjoy Condor Cam.

  25. Wonderful!!! I had lost the hope to see again Saticoy and his parents. Thanks Condor team!!

  26. thanks for putting a cam on the flight pen. sorry but I forget. is this flight pen including Saticoy’s parents and Saticoy? or would this pen include Saticoy and other fledged condors? I kind of recall plans to separate Saticoy from his parents so they might breed again.

  27. also, trying to get my bearings. is Saticoy’s nest area towards the upper top left of the current cam view? I kind of recognize one of the beams where Saticoy’s parents used to hang out. coming down from that area there is a platform and a long piece of wood, almost like a diagonal ladder.

    • oh, I just reread this fledging post and it describes the nest area enough so I can locate it from the current cam view. sorry. I don’t have a great memory sometimes.

      Moderator’s note: No worries! It’s nice to now be able to see what this post describes.

  28. What a delightful surprise. I opened the condor cam sight just to see what was there and behold, I saw a condor on a roost in a flight area. I think the camera is pointed toward Saticoy’s nest. I couldn’t identify the condor. Then this AM I opened the site in time to see 2 condors come out of the nest and then return. Again too far away to identify them. Thank you so much for the new view. I have not said goodbye to Saticoy after all. I can actually watch him fly. I’m smiling. Thank you.

  29. Thank you once again to the Condor Team for focusing the video cam directly into the flight pen. I am very positive I just saw Saticoy fly down from his perch to follow his Mom to the Nest Box . He did climb the pole ladder, though, and when he got there, the Mom was blocking the entrance, so he flew back down. It was so satisfying to see him be able to do all of these. He seems to be very active and very healthy too. Please let us know how we can contriubte to the cam that you just installed in the flight pen. This costs money and some of us can help out. We do appreciate your helping us, faithful Saticoy fans, follow him through as he gets ready to be separated from his parents. It will be a very sad day for me . Don’t want him released into the wild.

    Moderator’s note: Right now you’re watching our adult condors Sisquoc and Shatash. Saticoy, has “flown the coop” and started his next adventure. We’ll have a blog post about this milestone very soon, Lydia.

  30. Reading about Saticoy’s fledging made me recall watching Sequoia as a chick in the giant sequoia nest in 1984. As habitat specialist on the recovery project many years ago, I was sometimes allowed to accompany the condor biologists into the field. Jan Hamber took me along on a nest watch at Starvation Grove. We camped 1/2 mile away, out of sight of the condors. Sequoia was removed from the sequoia nest at 150 days of age and put into the captive breeding program. Can you tell us what became of Sequoia, and where he is today? Thanks!

    Condor Team responds: Thanks for your interest in condors. Sequoia resided at the Los Angeles Zoo.

  31. I am sorry to hear saticoy flew the coop, does that mean he is really gone or just the next step in his life.. Did he get his number before he flew the coop? I enjoyed watching since he was a fake egg. The camera in the yard is nice to see finally after all this time following in the roost area. The yard is perfect for the condors. Thanks Condor Team for your input and educating us followers.

    Moderator’s note: We’ll be posting a blog today that will explain Saticoy’s next step. Be sure to check back!

  32. I am sharing my feelings as I read about wanting to keep Saticoy in captivity. Yes, it would be safer. But I have seen condors flying free. It is breath taking and spirit lifting. It makes me sad to see Sisquoc and Shatash limited to a flight pen for all their lives. They can never soar. Their sacrifice is making the continuation of their species possible and keeps them safe. BUT at a great sacrifice on their part.