Condor Chick: Exercising those Wings

Cuyamaca nibbles a parent's toe at that elusive edge.

Cuyamaca nibbles a parent’s toe at that elusive edge.

With her new, long wing feathers, California condor chick Cuyamaca is exercising her wings more often in the form of strong flapping. You will notice on Condor Cam that, as her wings gain more surface area, she will be able to lift her body off of the nest floor. She won’t be able to fly, but she’ll be a step closer. Plus, her legs are getting stronger and more coordinated, allowing her to jump higher. We expect her to be able to jump up onto the entry barrier of the nest box any day now. This usually happens between 90 and 110 days of age (June 23 to July 13). It could be earlier or later, as each chick develops at a different rate.

The barrier is 18 inches (45 centimeters) tall, so if she can jump up onto it, it’s not a long fall if she slips. Usually, the chicks are strong enough to jump down without slipping. Hopping up and down from the nest barrier exercises Cuyamaca’s wings, and perching on it helps improve her balance. She may even sleep on top of the barrier! From the barrier, Cuyamaca will be able to hop back into her nest, if she wants to, or she can hop into the adjoining roost area, of which most can be viewed via the Condor Cam. While out in the roost, she can rest or sleep in the shade, perch with her parents (if they are not perched out in the flight pen), or step out to the roost ledge to soak up the sun’s rays for the first time.

The ledge is about 8 feet (2.4 meters) from the ground: high enough to make the parents feel comfortable and secure in their nest but not as high as a condor nest in the wild. Cuyamaca may get near the edge, but she will be cautious in doing so, so she doesn’t teeter off. It is natural for condor chicks to explore and exercise on the edge of their nest cavities. Rarely do they fall out; in 30 years of raising California condors here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, we have never seen a chick fall from its nest area prematurely.

Cuyamaca will fledge, or leave the nest, on her own terms. When she is ready, she will either jump to the floor of her flight pen or fly from the roost ledge to one of the perches in the pen. We have seen chicks do both: clumsily and tentatively parachute to the ground or gracefully fly all the way across the pen and land next to the parents. Chicks have fledged as early as 123 days of age and as late as 165 days. We consider them fledged when they perch up off of the ground while out in the pen. In future blog entries, I will explain what to expect once Cuyamaca fledges, as well as what is in store for her if she is released to the wild.

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

31 Responses to Condor Chick: Exercising those Wings

  1. I am fascinated…I check on her several times a day and really enjoy your informative blogs. Thank you so much, I have learned a lot!

  2. Thank you Ron for the new information. We are learning a lot about our beautiful condor. It’s just amazing.

  3. Fascinating information on another key developmental stage. Thank you again for another excellent post, Ron.

  4. Hope everything ok with our Cuyamaca camera off today.

  5. It must be exciting for both Cuyamaca and her keepers when she takes her first flight to be with Mom and Dad. Kudos for all the wonderful things the Zoo does for these majestic birds. It has been another enjoyable season watching this “little” girl.

  6. Thank you Ron for another informative blog about Cuyamaca. She is just beautiful. Watching her feathers come in is so cool. I love it when she is exercising her wings. Awesome and powerful. I notice that she has been spending more time lately at the little window at the base of her nest box. Is she interacting with the Keepers there? Something seems to have her attention. Thank you and SDZ for the work that is done to protect our animals.

    Monitor’s note: The keepers do not interact with parent-raised condor chicks.

  7. Come on Cuyamaca !!!…JUMP…JUMP…HOP…HOP…we all cant wait , want to give her a little she jumps up and over, will she ever return to the nest box?

  8. Thanks for the always informative blogs. Such glorious wings! She’ll be ready to fly up to those clouds before we know it!

  9. She did it she’s on the ledge

  10. That was wonderful great balance And back in the nest.

  11. Hi, all. Just excellent, Ron & team!! I just got here a few minutes ago and just in time to see Cuya flapping her gorgeous wings. And then , struggling a bit, hopped right up on the opening ledge. My heart was going a mile a minute. I was never quite on time to see Saticoy’s accomplishments, so this was thrilling for me. She is a beautiful girl.
    Thank you, as always, for your newest report. I really do enjoy the watching and the reading.

  12. Just looked in on Cuya on the condor cam, and she’s looking pretty good! She also had some remains of a dinner that she ate sometime ago. Read the article about Cuya’s wings and how she’s exercising them and her legs every day. will get back to the condor cam later on to see how she’s doing.
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  13. Hi
    I am curious as to what the cutie can see from her nest? Wont she be bored?

  14. Very interesting post. You mention that the chick will leave the nest on her own terms when she is ready. However, do the parents ever coax the chick out as other birds do?

  15. Cuyamaca on the ledge again balance great Mom trying to get her to go in the flight nest now Dad watching over her . What great parents teaching things great to watch .

  16. Got on the condorcam just a minute ago, and what do I see?? Cuyamaga sitting on the door ledge having pecking fights with her mom! This is probably the first time that Cuya has made that jump onto the ledge, and that’s a huge milestone for her! That means that Cuya’s legs are getting pretty strong and her wings are able to help her hop up onto the ledge. Just loved that pecking fight that they just had between them! Will check back later on!
    Chari Mercier :)
    St. Pete, FL

  17. Just turned on condor cam for first time in a long time………she was spinning around with her wings extended….over and over…round & round !
    Your very informative post says “…you can see the adjoining roost area”….I don’t see that….what am I missing on the cam view???

    • The adjoining roost area is what is on the other side of the ledge, where Cuymaca’s parents often hang out to make sure she’s okay and where she can see them when she sticks her head over the ledge.

  18. When Cuyamaca pulls her head down into her feathers she looks like she has a fur collar on! So cute

  19. Just come home from work and Cuyamaca looks worn out she must have had a busy day ,so funny the way she lies flat like that . She’s a beautiful conder.

  20. Thank you for sharing all the wonderful details of her growing up!

  21. WOW, just saw our beautiful girl hit the ledge again, she sat there until her father came and pushed her back in and then mom came to have a look at her and flew off…I guess the parents do have a say as to when she flies the coop!:)

  22. I enjoy watching sweet Cuyamaca so much. She has always been different from her brother. She’s been calmer and cuter all along. She also seems a little more graceful than Saticoy was. I finally got to see her on the ledge this morning with her dad feeding her. Her legs are still a little bit shaky so she fell off after a few minutes, but she’s making great progress.

    Thank you so much for this condor cam and the opportunity to watch condor chicks growing up.

    • I have finally gotten to see her on the ledge this morning! She’s so cute. Yes cute.

  23. I thoroughly enjoy watching and learning all about the amazing California Condors! Thank you Ron, Staff and to the wonderful San Diego Zoo for making it possible.


  24. She’s out on the roost! Yay!

  25. Cuyamaca made it out , wonderfull she’s growing very fast now .

  26. Camera not on Cuyamaca . Camera all blurry .

  27. Thank you so much for the information on Cuyamaca exercising her wings. She is just beautiful.
    Just a note about the ConorCam. I just love being able to visit with Cuyamaca and her parents. But, sometimes the Cam is too low. I realize that you all are very busy, yet could someone adjust the CondorCam so that we can see all of Cayamaca as she is on the ledge or outside in front of her nesting box? Thank you so much.

  28. Having watched Cuyamaca for the last hour jump out into the roost area,it was amazing to watch her jump around and flap her wings . Mom did at one point push her back in the roost area maybe Cuyamaca was to close to the flight area .great work by The Team.

  29. I noticed Cuyamaca still on the ledge, as. It is dark now would the parents help Cuyamaca back into the nest or would she stay on the ledge for the night? Would she be afraid to go back in the nest due to the darkness ?