Condor Chick Watching: Age 3 to 4 Weeks

The chick feels safe in the corner of the nest box on April 16.

The chick feels safe in the corner of the nest box on April 16.

At 3 weeks of age and 42 to 52 ounces (1.2 to 1.5 kilograms), our California condor chick can start to thermoregulate, or control its own body temperature. This is when the parents can start leaving the chick on its own during the day. Depending on the ambient temperature, the chick may be seen shivering or panting in an effort to warm or cool itself. Also, on warm days, the chick may inflate the air sacs in its chin and neck to cool down. Air sac inflation can also occur after a particularly filling meal. Often, Sisquoc or Shatash may spend time in the nest with the chick, but they may not necessarily sit on the chick.

The chick is more mobile, scooting around the nest on its haunches, or tarsal joints. We refer to this as a tarsal crawl. It’s not quite standing up on its feet, but it can move about, following the parents and investigating different parts of the nest. You may see the chick start to gather items (feather, scraps of old food) from around the nest and move them to one corner. The chick likes to sit or sleep on this pile and play with the different items. These feathers and old food scraps are often brought to the nest by the parents. Birds replace their feathers through a process called molting, kind of like when mammals shed their hair/fur. We don’t know if the parents are bringing these items to the nest specifically for the chick or if it’s just happenstance, but the chick loves to investigate and play with them!

As the parents start leaving the chick alone for longer periods of time, it will be easier to watch the chick when it sleeps. Just like all growing youngsters, condor chicks sleep A LOT. With longer legs and gawky bodies, they often sprawl out, wings askew, in odd positions when they sleep. Do not worry! The chick is perfectly fine.

At approximately 1 month of age, the chick weighs around 3.9 pounds (1.8 kilograms). The parents may start leaving the chick alone overnight, sleeping near the nest. If the weather is still cool or it’s raining, the parents may continue to brood overnight until the weather improves. Even though the parents are increasing their time away from the chick, they remain VERY vigilant and protective of their nest and, especially, their chick. I hope you continue to watch the chick grow on Condor Cam!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Condor Chick Watching: Age 2 to 3 Weeks.

32 Responses to Condor Chick Watching: Age 3 to 4 Weeks

  1. Thanks for the info, I love seeing the parents keeping the chick warm. Such a neat opportunity to see how these beautiful creatures rear their young.

  2. thanks for the thorough post. I watched Saticoy grow up but I could not remember when his parents started to give him more solo time. I felt as though the new chick was getting solo time kind of early as a result. thanks for the reminder that it is a normal time for the parents to be apart from the chick. the chick looks pretty active and healthy.

  3. Does the Condor Cam make a noise? It seems as if the condors look directly into the camera quite often and I wonder if it is because there is a sound coming from the camera.

    I also asked on the previous post when the first exam would occur and we learn more about the chick. Do you know when we might learn more details?

    Ron responds: The cameras have small cooling fans, but they are very quiet. The movement of the camera itself can catch the condor’s eye, so we try not to move it too often or too quickly. We normally conduct the first exam at around 45 days of age.

    • I’m neither a condor expert nor a bird person. I read one book about condors last year, “Condor: To the Brink and Back — The Life and Times of One Giant Bird” (John Nielsen). the book described one condor which was very adept at avoiding the traps set by researchers (used to capture condors for tagging, etc.). my take-away was that condors are perceptive and curious birds.

  4. I just had to say that the chick is so cute! Yes I said cute, such a rolly polly!

    • I agree. not even being a traditional bird person, I was surprised to see how cute the condor chicks are. the parents are pretty beautiful (Sisquoc – dad – in particular) too.

  5. Thank you so much for keeping me informed. It is wonderful for me to watch this little baby and understand everything that is happening. This is great. Thanks so much!

  6. I watched Saticoy grow up and I remember when, a month of born, you did the blood test to him to determine the sex of the chick. The history repeats itself

  7. Wonderful update blog Ron. I am so happy that you kept the cam up for us this year too.

    When I was at the SDZ the end of March, I really got to see just how big these majestic birds are. Simply amazing.

  8. Hello,
    Thank you for the update on our little bald headed friend! You know it takes a special breed of people to do what you all are doing! To want to preserve this beautiful creature for future generations to enjoy! I would like to say a big thank you and job well done for all that you do!

  9. Thank you for sharing another condor chick’s development with us. I’ve followed the Panda Cam for years but just discovered the Condor Cam last year. The other day I saw the chick sitting on its parent apparently playing with a stick. What a treat!

  10. I loved watching Saticoy last year, but this year’s chick is a real PISTOL! What an active, aggressive little thing! Its parents must be counting the days until it fledges. :)

  11. thanks for closeup’s on the chickie today. always tempted to call it Saticoy or he, even though its identity is largely unknown. interesting to read that at least one another person thinks this chickie is more active than Saticoy. I’m not sure yet but chickie does seem pretty demanding of attention (?food?) from parents.

  12. This is my first time watching the condor cam it’s wonderful to see how the baby interacts with its parents and watching it day by day grow . And it is growing very fast you all do a wonderful job

  13. nice thing about the chick’s flexible neck is that he can make a nice pillow from his own down feathers (still attached)

    • one interesting behavior I’m observing a couple times is the chick seems to hop from its hindquarters onto its feet while simultaneously spreading its wings out (not flapping, just spreading for a few moments). not sure if this may be a rehearsal for wing begging. but a parent is not in sight. I did not watch Saticoy frequently at this stage but I don’t remember him hopping onto his feet like this.

  14. WOW..cant believe how fast this chick is growing…sooooooooo big already, unless its all fluff…how soon do you find out the sex? and I assume the exam is fast cause you dont want to upset the parents?..can someone pls explain process?

  15. I’m watching the little condor and is it normal for the way he sleeps? I looked to see if he was breathing. he looks very comfortable.

  16. The baby is so cute the why it lays down. Does the baby call its parents when it needs to eat?

  17. The chick is really active right now, playing with the big feathers and hopping around trying to use its little wings.

  18. the chick is cute playing with its “toy” now. the chick looks so soft.

  19. Baby chick is acting like a teenager! He takes off out of camera range already. His parents have their “hands” full!

  20. is it known whether there tend to be more male condors vs female condors born in captivity?

  21. Got your SDZ Global email newsletter today and found out that the new chick’s name is Cuyamonga (?)! My nickname for him is Cuya to keep it short and sweet! Saw the latest pic of him and he is growing! Will keep watching on the condorcam!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  22. I too got my newslettter regarding the chick’s name.. but since the first exam hasn’t taken place according to Ron’s statement about it being done around 45 days. I wondered why the chick was being called a he.. do you already know it’s sex?

  23. I noticed with cuya ( my little nickname for the chick) that he loves to snuggle with the feather that one of his parents left for him. I remember reading that it’s like a toy to them to keep them company but I don’t remember Saticoy paying as much attention to it as this little one. Cuya moves it around and then sits on it which I think it’s adorable and comforting to the little one while the parents are out. I can’t wait to see the little one fledge!

    • I like the nickname Cuya too. I don’t remember the name I voted for now but I was going for an easy, pleasant nickname and something androgynous.

  24. Is there a picture somewhere of the whole nest?

  25. Wonderful name! Filled with hope for great-winged things to come for the little one.

  26. There might be activated both cameras, the current one and that of the flight pen?

  27. Where did the spot come from on Cuya’s head? He didn’t get jabbed, did he?