Condor Moving Day

Ron and fellow keeper Fatima Lujan hold Saticoy, who now sports red wing tag #36.

Saticoy, our California condor who hatched and was raised by his parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, while viewers watched on our Condor Cam, has officially flown the coop… in a manner of speaking. We removed him from his parents’ flight pen at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s California condor breeding facility and moved him to our remote socialization pen, approximately one mile from the main part of the Safari Park. There, he will be isolated from any human activity and socialized with other fledglings his age: males Siyi (pronounced “SEE-yee”), Nechuwa (pronounced “neh-CHOO-wah”), and Sukilamu (pronounced “soo-kee-LA-moo”). Saticoy will also be living with a 1-year-old juvenile female condor named Ihiy (pronounced “EE-hee”) and an 8-year-old adult female named Xananan (pronounced “ha-NA-nan”).

California condors expected to be released to the wild are called “release candidates.” We raise all of our condor chicks as if they are release candidates until we hear otherwise from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the California Condor Recovery Program. We have yet to hear if and/or where any of this year’s fledglings will be released; it may not be determined until December.

Release candidates are isolated from humans. We offer their food through a chute in the wall. The pools are drained and rinsed from the outside of the pen. We don’t pick up any of their old food. The only time the birds see us is during a medical procedure: affixing wing tags, pre-shipment examinations, or West Nile Virus inoculations. These generally are not enjoyable experiences for the young condors, and that is what we want them to learn from us before they are shipped to the wild. We don’t want them to associate humans with anything beneficial. We are hoping 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.

One of Saticoy’s new penmates has a very important role; Xananan, the adult, is acting as the young birds’ new “mentor.” Her job is to facilitate the socialization of the fledglings. Condors are very social and, like us, need to learn the rules of how to interact in a group. The parent condors started this process when the chicks hatched and continued it as the youngsters eventually fledged. Now that they are no longer living with their parents, Xananan will further their education. She will be the dominant bird in the pen, often displacing the fledglings from perches or roost sites or pushing them from the food until she has eaten first. The dominant birds at a site are usually the biggest ones and often the most experienced. The young condors need to learn how to interact with these dominant and pushy birds in order to be successful in the wild. Fortunately, for all four of this year’s chicks, their parents gave them all a big head start.

The socialization pen is very large with lots of space to fly around and exercise wings. There are several large oak snags on which to perch or roost. Also, there are two pools from which to drink or bathe. There are several ground-level perches and boulders to hop around on as well. It is interesting to see the social development of each bird. They can choose to perch next to whichever bird they wish, so they really get to know each other well. We have learned that young condors that aren’t well socialized tend not to be successful once they are released to the wild.

Before Saticoy was moved, we were able to affix a wing tag to his right wing. He is wearing a red wing tag with the number 36. We normally put the last two digits of the condors’ studbook numbers on the tags. Saticoy’s studbook number, the official number by which he is known in the California Condor Recovery Program, is 636. This wing tag helps to identify Saticoy so we can differentiate him from the other fledglings; they all have their own wing tag numbers. The wing tags serve the same purpose as leg bands do for any of the other birds you might see at the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park. We just can’t use leg bands on the condors. One reason is that the leg bands would get encrusted with urates during urohydrosis, and it would become impossible to read the numbers on the band. Urohydrosis is the process in which condors, and all other New World vultures, keep cool. They excrete uric acid, or urates, on their bare legs. When this liquid evaporates, it cools the skin and the underlying blood vessels – similar to how sweating keeps us cool. Another reason condors get wing tags is that they are so strong, they can just bend the leg bands right off of their legs!

Saticoy was also weighed before he was moved to his new pen. He weighed in at 7.95 kilograms (17.5 pounds), very close to his adult weight. For those that don’t remember, he weighed only about 180 grams (6.3 ounces) when he hatched on March 10!

Thanks again for all of the interest, support, and great comments and questions over the past 5 1/2 months. It has been awesome to see how well the Condor Cam was received by all of Sisquoc, Shatash, and Saticoy’s new “family” of fans. It has been an honor to be able to acquaint you with these amazing, beautiful, and majestic birds! We hope to continue Condor Cam. The next breeding season usually starts around November, with eggs being laid around January. We would like to introduce you to another pair of condors, so you can get to know them as well as you got to know Sisquoc and Shatash. Please keep checking for any other updates we may post about Saticoy. Even though he is no longer on Condor Cam, his story is far from over!

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

44 Responses to Condor Moving Day

  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Watching these beautiful birds has been so entertaining and such a learning experience! I love to take a short break at work and see something that takes me out of the stress of the day and they certainly did that. My favorite thing was seeing Saticoy sprawled out on his belly taking a nap : ) I can’t wait to see our new baby and parents! Keep up the great work, we appreciate you

  2. Thank you, Ron! How exciting that this bird is graduating to the phase of his life… Seems like just yesterday he was knee-high to a grasshopper, teetering on the edge of his pen contemplating how to operate his wings. They grow up so fast!
    Keep up the amazing work you all are doing at the Safari Park.

  3. Thank you for the update I hadn’t expected for Saticoy to be gone so quickly. I will be sure to watch out for the new condor family. Previously it was mentioned that the Condor Cam would be shut down until some future date, is that still the case. I enjoy watching Saticoy’s parents as well and would like to continue to watch them or other condors if that’s possible.

    Thanks again for providing this opportunity.

    Moderator’s note: We’ll be keeping Condor Cam going, so keep watching, Rebecca.

  4. thanks for the thorough post. good luck to Saticoy, hopefully he will make it to become released in the wild. hopefully he will learn not to peck on Xananan too much. good luck to Shatash and Sisquoc for having another egg.

  5. Thank you so much for the great update! We certainly miss Saticoy and his parents but it’s wonderful to know what direction Saticoy’s life is headed. Please keep us in the loop and looking forward to the next egg.

  6. Thanks for the update on Saticoy! I wish him the best of luck. Does Sisquoc and Shatash still look for him in the nest box?

    • Sisquoc and Shatash poked around as if to be double-checking the whereabouts of the chick, but after that, life got back to normal. Typical reaction of condor parents.

  7. I wish there were cameras in Saticoy’s new area. It would be fascinating to continue to watch how they take care of each other and learn from the older birds. It’s been a joy watching him grow up, and watching mom take care of him.

  8. It’s been quite a journey. Thank you — and best of luck to Saticoy!

  9. It is so heartbreaking for me to read that Saticoy has been separated from his parents. I sincerely hope that every now and then you can give us an update on how he is doing, and whether he would eventually be a candidate for release into the wild. I would not want him to be poisoned out there by lead pellets. I have become so attached to him during this journey that I will definitely miss him. Thank you for the good care you have provided him while he was in the condor pen with his parents.

  10. Thank You to all of you wonderful workers and keepers who kept tireless hours taking care of these wonderful animals, and for allowing us a window into your world! I have a whole new appreciation for each and every life there at the animal parks and have enjoyed watching them grow and thrive under your care! Thank you so much for keeping us up to date as we watch our “extended family” move into a new chapter of their lives.

  11. Thanks for the great update on Saticoy. Best of luck big boy! Glad to hear he’ll have plenty of company in the new pen and a “diva” to make sure they all behave. :-) Looking forward to the new nest occupants and I’m sure it will be as much fun as Saticoy has been.

  12. Hi, All.

    Thanks you so much for the update. I really miss seeing Saticoy, but I’m glad he is doing well. Can you tell us how he reacted to the tag? And how he is reacting to his new “mates”? Does he seem to miss his parents?

    You guys do a wonderful thing there and a great job in reporting to us how it’s all going. Please continue to keep in touch with us about Saticoy and his parents. I wish we could see him out in his new environment. Let us know if we can ever help in setting up a new cam. Thanks again, I’m so proud of you all.

    • He didn’t have a reaction to the tag. Most condors just treat the tag like a feather and can even be seen preening the feather. As for his new friends at condor socialization school, they seem to be getting along well. He settled in quickly and is joining the others in exploring their new home.

      • Thanks so much for your reply. So glad to hear he is adjusting well.

        • Also, I just realized that the cam is now showing the outside. And I saw 2 condors on a perch. I assume that’s Saticoy’s parents? Well, anyway, thanks so much for letting us see out there.

          Moderator’s note: Yes, Saticoy’s parents can be seen on Condor Cam.

  13. Those of us who work at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon have been watching Saticoy every day since he hatched and because of the Condor Cam, we have a great idea what is happening with our 3 wild-born condor chicks. We feel like we have already “adopted” Saticoy and really hope to see him soaring over the Canyon in a year or two!

  14. I have loved the condor cam and watching Saticoy grow and I wish him all the best when he is released. Thank you San Diego Zoo for this wonderful experience and teaching all of us including adults about the Condors. I look forward to the next babies.

  15. Thank you! I have loved watching Saticoy grow up. Keep us posted on his progress. Can’t wait to meet the next pair of parents and new condor next season.

  16. Thanks for all you do. Great site, and loved watching. Looking forward to next season!

  17. So enjoyed a very interesting and learning experience these past months. Saticoy’s hatching, growing up, and leaving his parents has been a wonderful experience for me. Just returned from a visit to the Safari Park and took the trek to Condor Ridge. Thanks for everything you do for the condors!

  18. I am so happy for you, Saticoy, that you have flown the coop! But I am also sad because I won’t see you anymore….Anyway, I have watched you every single day on condor cam, from egg to cute little fuzzy chick, sleeping in those awkward positions, to watching you lose your balance learning how to fly. Many fond memories. I love you, Saticoy. Be free little boy!

  19. I learned so much about these wonderful birds from daily checking of the condor cam. Baby Saticoy was so cute when he’d lounge around flopped on the ground in various positions. You just don’t see birds doing that! I hope he flies to freedom some day soon.

    I was worried that he didn’t have enough time with his parents after his first flight. Would that separation occur so soon in the wild? When does the mating season begin again and when can we expect to see an egg next year?

    Moderator’s note: The next breeding season usually starts around November, with eggs being laid around January.

  20. Cool! Good luck, Saticoy! I hav enjoyed watching you on your webcam, even though I had to give it a rest due to an illness and my computer wasn’t working.

  21. I miss baby Saticoy so very much. I have the webcam on the whole day still wishing that hopefully, somehow, a very short video of him will show us how he is doing in his new enclosure and how he interacts with his penmates. If this is not possible, how about even just a picture of him with his friends. Or, if a picture is not possible, how about just updating us on his activities? Any comments about him will be more than welcome. Thank you, Condor Team, for taking good care of these beautiful birds.

  22. Sad tho I am to say goodbye to Saticoy, he, his parents and the (human) condor team are doing a wonderful thing for all condors. Is it possible to let us know about any of Sisquoc and Shatash’s previous chicks, where they are now and how they are doing? And were any of them able to have been released?

  23. I was just watching Shatash (mom condor) with her wings open for about 4 minutes. What is she doing, sunning herself, cooling herself, showing off?

    Moderator’s note: Any of those. 😉

  24. How is Saticoy in his new socialization´s school?

  25. Godspeed Saticoy!

    Your Mom and Dad did a great job raising you, and you have a wonderful life to look forward to out in the wild. Thank you SDZ Condor Team and Condor Cam!

  26. In 1983, when I was a young freelance writer for the Detroit Free Press, I visited the zoo and got to see the condors from a distance. One of those condors was Sisquoc. You cannot imagine how thrilled I am to know that he is still alive, fathering chicks, raising them wisely, and helping to bring a species back from extinction. So, to Saticoy, I say, “Bon voyage!” But to Sisquoc I say, “You are the future of your kind. Long may you reign.”

    Moderator’s note: Well said, Anne!

  27. Hello,
    I was wondering…since Saticoy has a red tag…and Sisquoc has a yellow one…what do the colors
    mean? or does it mean anything? I remember reading about stud numbers ..but do the colors
    have a reason?

    • The color, along with the number on their tag, helps us identify from a distance the individual condors. The color a bird receive is dependent on the year it hatched and possibly the location. In this case, it’s the year for Saticoy. And Sisquoc’s tag is yellow because it is easier to see on camera.

  28. I have seen to Sisquoc and Shatash . Do they live permanently in the flight pen? Then in order that Sisquoc the tag needs if he is captive?

  29. Sisquoc’s tag helps us distinguish between him and Shatash, since males and females share the same features and size.

  30. How is Saticoy doing? Has he made new strides toward becoming independent and is he socializing well with the other condors? Would love to see a photo of him!

  31. Same questions as Pat’s. I am chekcing the blog everyday without fail just to make sure I don’t miss anything. I do miss him very much.

  32. Thanks for still being there to answer questions. How is Saticoy doing?
    I enjoy checking on Sisquoc and Shatash from a different angle in their flight pen. There are apparently two flight pens beside each other with 2 pairs of condors when the camera angle changes. It also looks like there may be 2 more pens behind the two that were visible to other day. Is that true? How many pairs do you have at SDZ?

    Moderator’s note: Your questions have been forwarded to the Condor Team.

  33. Happy 7-month birthday Saticoy. Stay healthy and strong!

  34. Hello,
    How is Saticoy doing?

  35. I’ve also been wondering how Saticoy is progressing and what’s the protocol for determining if and when he and the other young birds might be released into the wild. Also, I hope that when Saticoy is released and that after he is released there will be some video available.

    Thanks again for all the effort that goes into providing all these wonderful images of the work you are doing.


    Condor Team responds: Each year we review all the condor chicks produced in the breeding centers, and they are evaluated based on genetics and their gender. The analysis is usually preformed near the end of the year. After reviewing the data, the locations for their release are determined, and the chicks are moved to pre-release areas. There, condor chicks will remain for 3 to 12 months before being released into the wild. Saticoy will be part of this upcoming evaluation and process.

  36. Hi, All.
    Still following and looking at the cam. Enjoying the responses from the Condor team. Always looking for updates on our “boy”. Wish we could see him. Hope all is well and wishing everyone a “Happy Thanksgiving”.

  37. Wishing everyone at SDZ Global for a very nice, great Thanksgiving Day with families, friends, and all of the Cal condors! Enjoy!!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  38. one of the earlier comments stated that the next breeding would start around Nov. is it known yet whether Shatash and Sisquoc have bred this year (and would expect an egg)? are you able to know this status before the egg is laid or do you generally wait until Jan. to find out? I guess perhaps there will be a post for Saticoy if he does get selected for wild release at the end of the year (fingers crossed; I also hope the older woman condor taught him manners in the meantime).
    happy late Thanksgiving and winter holidays. sorry, I forgot to post on this site (lately following elephants, pandas, and a couple other cams through Annenberg foundation).

    • It is still too early – eggs are usually laid from January on.