Condors Saticoy and Cuyamaca Flying Free

Saticoy wears his new GSM unit on his wing tag. Photo credit: Geoff Grisdale, USFWS

Saticoy wears his new GSM unit on his wing tag. Photo credit: Geoff Grisdale, USFWS

While observing this year’s Condor Cam chick, Su’nan, many of our regular viewers have been inquiring about the status of the two previous years’ Condor Cam chicks, Saticoy (from 2012) and Cuyamaca (from 2013). Recently, we have received updates from the field biologists that are monitoring and caring for the young birds, and we are excited to share the updates with you!

Saticoy was the first California condor to hatch on Condor Cam. He was released to the wild in November 2013 at the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California. Now 2½ years old, we are happy to report that he is thriving and still flying free. Most recently, the field crew was able to trap him in the flight pen at Bitter Creek for a routine health check and to change his transmitters. The field biologists periodically catch the free-flying condors to monitor levels of lead in their blood, since lead poisoning is still their #1 threat.

The condors—and any other carnivore, for that matter—can get lead poisoning from eating an animal that has been shot with lead ammunition. When an animal is shot, the lead bullet fragments and embeds itself throughout the meat. Those fragments are then swallowed as the meat is consumed. Lead is a toxic, heavy metal that is easily absorbed by the digestive system into the bloodstream, resulting in painful and damaging lead poisoning. Any animal that ingests lead can suffer lead poisoning, including eagles, vultures, wolves, coyotes, bears, skunks, snakes, and humans. The California Condor Recovery Program and its partners encourage people to use non-lead ammunition during activities like hunting, pest control, and ranching to help reduce the amount of lead available for consumption by humans and wildlife.

Devon Lang Pryor, Santa Barbara Zoo, hold Saticoy during a blood draw. The blood is taken from the leg. You can see his leg between Devon's knees. Photo credit: Katie Chaplin, USFWS

Devon Lang Pryor, Santa Barbara Zoo, hold Saticoy during a blood draw. The blood is taken from the leg. You can see his leg between Devon’s knees. Photo credit: Katie Chaplin, USFWS

Happily, when Saticoy’s blood was tested during his exam, his field blood lead level was below the threshold for treatment! His original tracking devices stopped working during the summer, so he needed some new transmitters. He received a small telemetry transmitter that was attached to one of his tail feathers , as well as a new GSM GPS transmitter on each wing tag. The GSM transmitters collect a location every 15 minutes during daylight hours, giving us a more complete range map than other GPS units that collect a location every hour. As you can see on his range map, he has been spending the majority of his time this autumn around the Tejon Ranch area, 40 to 60 miles (60 to 100 kilometers) away from his release site in Bitter Creek.

Cuyamaca, the 2013 Condor Cam star, was released in northern Arizona at the Vermilion Cliffs, just north of Grand Canyon National Park, in June 2014. After release, she demanded minimal maintenance from the field biologists. She was flying and feeding well, as well as finding safe and proper roost sites. She blended into the wild population easily! She has yet to range too far from the release site, making the 50-mile (80 kilometers) radius around the site her favored territory. She regularly takes multi-day trips to the Colorado River corridor of Marble Canyon as well as some regular foraging trips to the Kaibab National Forest adjacent to the Vermilion Cliffs. The field crew did observe her being chased by a competing golden eagle. The eagle hit her in the air, and they both tumbled to the ground, but she rebounded immediately and showed no signs of injury. Other than that, Cuyamaca has had a fairly stress-free transition to the wild.

Saticoy's fall 2014 range map was provided by Laura Mendenhall and Joseph Brandt of the USFWS.

Saticoy’s fall 2014 range map was provided by Laura Mendenhall and Joseph Brandt of the USFWS.

Many thanks to our partners in the California Condor Recovery Program for providing these updates, photos, and maps! Devon Lang Pryor of the Santa Barbara Zoo provided Saticoy’s photos and update information. Laura Mendenhall and Joseph Brandt of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service provided Saticoy’s range map. Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund provided Cuyamaca’s update information.

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 San Diego Zoo Safari Park (including all of the condors!) thank you so much.

You can follow the Arizona condor population, which is monitored by The Peregrine Fund, on Facebook via the “Condor Cliffs” page, as well as The Peregrine Fund’s website. You can follow the Southern California condor population, which is monitored by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, on Facebook via the “Condor Cave” page.

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Moving Day for Condor Su’nan.

11 Responses to Condors Saticoy and Cuyamaca Flying Free

  1. Wow, what great news! Saticoy was my first condor, he has a special place in my heart and it’s so wonderful to see he and Cuyamaca living the free life that they were meant to live. Thank you Ron for letting us know about them, and thank you to all who made it possible for them to fly free and be healthy. Wish I could lay on a patch of grass in the Tejon Ranch area and just watch Saticoy fly around free!!!

  2. Wonderful. News Flying Free we are very lucky we are able to keep treck of them thank you for your on going work to look after these beautiful condors.

  3. congrats to SDZoo on the successful news about Saticoy and Cuyamaca. Saticoy was the first CA Condor I watched in the nest cam so it is very special news he is doing well.

  4. I hope one day to see a condor in full flight, it must be thrilling. Thanks again Ron and Staff for the brilliant work that you do.

  5. I’m so happy that the two “baby” condors are doing so well. I remember Saticoy’s father sitting on him a couple of times when he was a baby. I thought that was terrible until you said that it was part of Condor discipline. Is there any way we can help to stop hunters, etc. from using lead ammunition? Hopefully, most of them have stopped using lead. Thanks for having the nest cams, so we’re able to be enthralled every year by watching the chicks grow up.

    Monitor’s note: Judy, check out this page for how to help condors:

  6. Great new condor cam! What a beautiful view the chicks see every day. Thanks for the new view, love it.

  7. Hi Ron, I love the new condor cam. I’m wondering tho, the 3 chicks that are 7 and 6 months of age, are they able to totally feed themselves, or does the matriarch condor feed them? I don’t remember a chick in the nest feeding themselves at that young of an age. Thank You.

    • By the time the young condors are moved to the socialization pen, we make sure they have been seen feeding themselves. After fledging, they start to eat on their own, with the parents continuing to feed them every once in a while. Since the parents are not with them in the socialization pen, the chicks feed themselves. The mentor does not feed anybody.

  8. Whoops, sorry, what is wrong with me? I was thinking 18 months, giant panda’s age when leaving mom must have been on my mind!

  9. Thank you, Ron, for the update. I am happy, elated to hear that Saticoy and Cuyamaca are doing so well. I pray they have long lives soaring free and that they produce many strong, healthy young Condors. I thank all those who have made this possible.

  10. What’s up with the camera lately? It is only producing a series of still shots, not a live stream like before. I miss seeing the youngsters flying from one end of this huge pen to the other…is there some adjustment you can do so we can watch streaming video again? Thanks! And thank you for all you do for these amazing birds! It truly takes a village…

    Monitor’s note: Our Cam provider is working to restore the live stream.