Condor Chick Watching: Age 2 to 3 Weeks

The chick on April 12

The chick on April 12

At two to three weeks of age, the real fun of condor chick-viewing begins! The chick is getting bigger, weighing between 500 and 1,200 grams (1.1 and 2.6 pounds) and can often be seen poking its head out from under a parent’s wing. The parents might be spending less time sitting on the chick, weather permitting, leaving it unattended for longer periods of time, possibly 30 minutes or so. Never fear! They are nearby, often just out of Condor Cam’s view, 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) away.

It is usually easier to observe feeding behavior at this age as well. The parents stand a little to the side of the chick now, so you may catch a glimpse of food being transferred from parent to chick. The chick’s crop (the bulge in the esophagus where food is stored) may be visible when it’s full. It is between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball and is a bald patch of skin. You will also witness a very common behavior called wing begging: the chick begs for food by flapping one or both of its stubby little wings and bobbing its head excitedly. This behavior can persist until after the chick fledges, or leaves its nest, at four to five months.

The chick hatched wearing a fluffy coat of white down feathers. The main function of down is insulation to keep a bird cool or warm, whatever its body needs. At this stage, the chick’s white down is starting to transition to gray. Sometimes this can make the chick look dirty or scruffy, but it is still as healthy as it ever has been. Both chick and parents frequently groom the feathers to make sure they are working the way they should be. These dark feathers also help the chick blend in with the substrate and the nest cave walls, since the parents are not covering the chick as much as they recently were.

Some viewers have noted that the chick looks like it has scabs on its head/neck or has wounds on its body, matting its down feathers. This is actually regurgitated food stuck to its face or body. Feeding can be quite exciting for the chick, and some food doesn’t always end up in its mouth! The chick obviously can’t take a bath at this age, but the food dries up, gets crusty, and flakes off, a major benefit of having a bald head! If you’ve seen the big condors eat at Condor Ridge at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park or Elephant Odyssey at the San Diego Zoo, you can attest to the condors’ ability to keep clean after a messy meal. Also, the presence of flies in the nest is nothing to worry about. Keep in mind that condors are carnivores, feed their chicks via regurgitation, and nest in cavities (caves, crevices, etc.) that are often sheltered from the wind. All of these components add up to a very comfortable environment for flies as well as condors. Never fear: condors have excellent immune systems and are only mildly annoyed by the flies!

Happy viewing, and thanks so much for your support!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Condor Chick Watching: Hatch to 1 Week.

16 Responses to Condor Chick Watching: Age 2 to 3 Weeks

  1. Hi little baby!
    “It’s” so cute! It’s sitting there all alone….but momma or poppa will be back soon with some grub! Mmmmmm! Great job condor crew!

  2. Happy Birthday Saticoy (April 10)!

  3. thanks for the thorough blog post. is the chick currently larger than a tennis ball?
    when the chick’s crop was described as golf ball to tennis ball sized, I thought maybe the chick is larger than I think it is.

  4. whoa, chickie is starting to do the strange bent neck rest positions that Saticoy used to do. I guess the chick has good neck muscle control now.

  5. wow, is chickie getting a lot of solo time today? I’ve been peeking on and off but I’m getting to see its fuzzy self apart from parents.

  6. chickie is sleeping by itself. so cute, the little fuzzball.

  7. sorry to be a worry wart but are things ok with Sisquoc and Shatash? this is the first I’ve seen the chick alone every time I checked in on the cam. will the chick be ok with not having the parent close by at this time? I think I saw the chick probably squawk.

    • Sisquoc is back and sitting on the chick. all is good.

  8. hope that chickie is warm enough. it has been on its own a couple times today. it appears to be sleeping.

  9. Good Morning from Kansas! I was looking in on our fuzzy headed baby, sure is cute. Momma and Poppa sure do take good care of the little cutie! Great job condor crew!

  10. Hi Mr. Ron Webb and The Condor Team,
    Thanks so much for your great work for the CA Condor. We all appreciate you, your work, the blog and the cam so much! If we visit the SDZoo in the Spring, will we be able to see the condor parents?

    Monitor’s note: No, they are in an off-exhibit area we call the Condor-minium at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Both the Zoo and the Safari Park do have condors on exhibit, so at least you can see what magnificent birds these are “in the feather”!

  11. Hi Moderator (is it Moderator Debbie?),
    Thanks so much for the information about how to see the condors “in the feather” at the SDZoo. I agree, these birds are magnificent! Do the condors at the Zoo or the Sarfari Park have any chicks this time of year? If so, are the chicks “on exhibit”? Thanks again for your help.

    Monitor’s note: Condors that are on exhibit are not currently part of our breeding program, so there are no chicks to see. All chicks are hatched and raised off exhibit to give them the best chance at survival.

  12. Thanks so much for all of the interesting and informative updates. This is my first condor chick to view. About when will the first exam occur, and when do we learn whether female or male? Thank you!