Saticoy Flies into the Wild!

Saticoy (purple #36) receives his transmitters before his release.

Saticoy (purple #36) receives his transmitters before his release. Photo credit: Devon Lang Pryor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

We have some exciting news: Saticoy, everybody’s favorite California condor who hatched and grew up on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Cam in 2012, has finally been released to fly free in the wild! Saticoy was the first California condor to hatch, on March 10, 2012, while thousands of excited viewers watched live on Condor Cam. His parents (father Sisquoc and mother Shatash) did an amazing job raising him for over five months until he left the nest.

On April 11, 2013, we transported him to the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in southern California with two other young condors to be socialized in a pen before being released. The young birds were kept in this pre-conditioning facility throughout the summer and into the autumn so that they could become familiar with their surroundings before they were released. They were able to acclimatize to the weather and wind, and the 60+ other condors already flying free in this region. When the young birds were released, they weren’t complete strangers to the free-flying residents.

The two condors who accompanied Saticoy from the Safari Park (Nechuwa, #637, and Sukilamu, #643) were the first two birds released. They were released on October 22, 2013. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field biologists observed these two for a while to make sure they were socializing well into the wild flock before releasing any of the other young birds. After these two youngsters were okay, it was Saticoy’s turn.

Saticoy feeds at a carcass with other condors; one is Sukilamu (purple #43), another Safari Park condor.

Saticoy feeds at a carcass with other wild condors. Photo credit: Devon Lang Pryor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Saticoy (#636) and a young female (#628) from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho (another of our valuable partners in the California Condor Recovery Program) were released together on November 20, 2013, and flew away. Then some bad weather hit the area for the next two days. By November 23, 2013, the fog had cleared, and the sun was shining. That afternoon, both #628 and Saticoy had found their way back to the pre-conditioning facility and began feeding with the free-flying condors. One of the field biologists said that the two young condors may have set a record in returning to the release site and fitting in with the wild birds so quickly!

Saticoy was also observed perching and roosting in big snag trees with other birds those first few days. Usually, the field biologists find newly released birds on the ground or perched in small trees or shrubs before they make it up to the roost snags.

As you can see, it takes a lot of time, effort, and people to prepare young condors for a release program. Without help and enthusiasm from people like you, none of this would be possible. All of us at the Safari Park (including all of the condors!) thank you so much. It appears that Saticoy is off to a great start at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge and is learning his way around. We couldn’t be happier for him!

Many thanks to Devon Lang Pryor, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Biological Science technician, for providing us with an update and photos of the release!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, The Condors Next Door.

9 Responses to Saticoy Flies into the Wild!

  1. Wow! Thank you so much for the update on Saticoy! I am overcome with happiness and tears of joy upon learning of his release into the wild. This is just awesome news. It was because of Saticoy that I became interested and learned all about condors. I remember eagerly awaiting the opportunity each day, to be able to watch him develop from egg to young chick. I love you, Saticoy! Be free Little Boy!

  2. This is the most wonderful news about our dear Saticoy. It has been so much fun to learn about him from the time he was hatched until now when he is a successful bird in the wild. I’m so proud of him and I’m sure his parents would be too if they knew about it. Thanks for the update!

  3. Wonderful news thank you to the team . Saticoy is free. Take care out there.

  4. I am thrilled beyond words, not only for Saticoy but for all of the others that were released. Without the dedication of so many this would never have happened. Congratulations to all of you and I eagerly await the next chicks hatching, development and release. Thank you!

  5. Oh My Goodness! I held my breath, with tears in my eyes also as I read the blog! Thank you for the update on Saticoy! Congratulations on a wonderful job the condor team has done and encouragement the public has given to this great cause. This feat would not have been done without your diligence and faithfulness. Thank you again. Good luck to you our little guy, who is on his way to becoming a parent someday and continuing the lineage! Yay! I’m so happy!

  6. congratulations! SDZoo and Safari Park must be so proud of Saticoy. I watched him regularly from about his hatching to his fledging. I am very happy to hear he is making a great transition into the wild. best wishes with all the condors. also happy holidays.

  7. A question- Is the transmitter a permanent unit on Saticoys wing? Will we be able to get periodic updates (good and or bad) on him due to the transmitter? Many are still interested in his life as a free bird and your continued successes with the Condor project! Thanks!

  8. Wow! I’m just catching up on Saticoy and this is such wonderful news! He’s what got me hooked on the Condors. Lots of thanks to all involved in making this happen and I’ll be praying for Saticoy for a beautiful, free life in this crazy world. :)

  9. Hi. I, too, am just catching up with the news on Saticoy. It’s SO wonderful to read that he’s doing well and out on his own! “Free as a bird!” Yay! Your report brought tears to my eyes. All of you that do this important work make me SO PROUD. And I’m SO proud of our boy, Saticoy. May he always fly free and safe.