Fledged!

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Although she occasionally ducks into the nest box area, Antiki now spends most of her time practicing her flying flying skills outside.

We have switched the camera view of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Cam. Our faithful viewers have been able to watch our California condor chick, Antiki, hatch and grow in her nest box, but now they can view her out in her flight pen with her parents, father Sisquoc and mother Shatash, because she’s taken the next exciting step in her development—Antiki has fledged!

Fledging is the process in which a young bird leaves the nest. We consider a California condor chick to be fledged when they can fly to the higher perches in the pen—approximately 10 feet off the ground. When condor chicks fledge, they tend to be around 140 or 150 days old. The youngest bird to fledge here at the Safari Park was 123 days old. Antiki flew for the first time at 156 days of age.

Our condor nest boxes are elevated; they’re on the second floor of the condor breeding facility. The nests have one entrance that leads to the roost area. The entrance has an 18-inch barrier at the base to prevent young hatchlings from wandering out of our camera’s view. This barrier also provides exercise for the chick when it is big enough to start jumping up onto the barrier. The roost area is open to the flight pen and has a ledge that is about eight feet off of the ground. There is a five-inch-diameter pole leaning from the ground to the ledge; we call this the “pole ladder.” The condors can walk up or down this pole ladder to get to or from the nest. They can, of course, fly to the nest as well if they desire.

For a few weeks, Antiki was able to walk down the pole ladder to start exploring the flight pen. She would watch Sisquoc and Shatash eat, sometimes begging for them to feed her, sometimes playing tug-of-war trying to take food from them. She also got to drink from the pool for the first time. She would climb up onto an eight-foot-tall stump perch and up into the olive tree in the pen. She started to spend the night out in the pen, perched up in the tree, under the watchful eyes of her parents.

We still had not seen her actually fly to any of the perches, though, until September 13. That morning, after being warmed by the sun, she took a short flight from the olive tree to join Sisquoc on one of the 10-foot-tall perches. After that, she could deftly fly from perch to perch like a pro! Since that morning, Antiki spends the majority of the time out in the pen, sometimes returning to sit in the shade of the roost.

When condor chicks fledge in the wild, it can be a long process as well. They will often walk around the mouth of their nest cave, hopping about, testing their wings. They may hop or climb into nearby shrubs or trees to get a better vantage point. Very seldom do chicks just spring forth from their nest into the wild blue yonder. They usually need to exercise and develop their abilities before embarking on such a dangerous venture. Mom and dad are always present to escort or protect the chicks. Parent condors can be very vigilant and defensive of their chicks. After all, much energy and many resources went into producing just this one chick, so they try very hard to ensure success for their only nestling. One pair of condors in California actually chased a black bear away from their nest!

With this new camera view, you’ll be able to see the roost area, most of the perches in the pen, the feeding area (shift pen), shade areas created by plants, and the pool. The view is wide, so detail is a bit harder to discern. Also, we do minimal maintenance in the pen, so the pen has lots of plant growth and dried food (animal carcasses) in it. We limit our activities in/near chick pens so as not to expose Antiki to humans, thus desensitizing her to our presence. We have found that chicks raised in isolation from humans tend to be more successful once they are released to the wild. The flight pen won’t look as nice as an exhibit you might see at the Safari Park or the Zoo, but Sisquoc and Shatash prefer it that way, if it means we stay away from their precious chick!

If, by chance, you don’t see Antiki out in the pen, she could be resting in the shade of the roost, or she may have hopped back into the nest box. This is completely normal. The adult condors do the same thing. Just give her a little time; she’ll come back out into view later. We have a great volunteer staff that moves the camera for the nest box view, but we keepers move the camera when it is the pen view. We’ll do our best to zoom in to give you a good view of her when we can, but we are not always near the camera controls as we are also taking care of the other condors.

So what’s next for Antiki? She’ll stay in the pen with her parents for a little while longer. She is still learning from them. In the wild, condor chicks stay with or around their parents for up to 18 months. We don’t let them stay that long here at the Park. If we did, the next breeding season would probably be compromised; the presence of the fledgling may prevent the parents from breeding the next year, or the parents may act aggressively towards the chick if they try to nest again. Sometime in this fall, Antiki will be removed from her parents, so they can prepare for the next breeding season. She will be introduced to other birds her age in a group with an adult bird that acts as a behavioral mentor. In the meantime, it will be decided whether she will be a candidate for release to the wild (and where) or held for the captive breeding program. I’ll keep you informed when this happens. Until then, please continue to keep checking in on our big girl.

Everyone’s interest and enthusiasm over the hatch and growth of Antiki have been wonderful. We really appreciate all of the comments and questions we have received throughout her development. Thanks again for all of your support—we couldn’t do it without you!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, One Step Closer to Fledging.

15 Responses to Fledged!

  1. Thank you Ron for the update time does fly she has grown quickly You and the staff do a great job thank you

  2. Thank you, Ron. for another very informative and detailed report. It is fascinating to learn so much about this condor family and the condors in general. I’m eagerly awaiting our next chick!

  3. Yay Antiki! Yay Sisquoc and Shatash! Yay Condor Team! I love your care and vigilance with these beautiful birds. Thanks for bringing us up to date, I look forward to watching her in the pen. Her birth and and growth has been a wonderful thing to watch develop.

  4. thank you so much for opening into their pen area..I watch all the cams and this is just one more added one to be able to watch the birds.I hope she,the chick,won’t be released to the wild..
    Have not seen them yet in their pen but will watch for that every day….thanks..

  5. Thanks for moving the camera. I suspected she was out in the pen because she was not visible in the nest area most of the time. I disagree with you, Judy. I hope she will be released. I know it is dangerous, but she will be happier flying free. I am awe struck, very moved when I see them soaring. That is what they were made for. They can’t soar in a pen. And they have a job to do in nature. They are part of the clean up crew for our part of the world.
    How are Saticoy and Cuayamaca doing? Has the third chick (Can’t remember her name. One of the joys of being 88.) been released and if so where?
    Thanks for the privilege of watching these fanatastic birds as you help save them from extinction.

    • I have to agree with you Edith, I hope too that Antiki will be released. Of course there are going to be dangers but she deserves the freedom and destiny that she was born for.

      And although I realize that Sisquoc and Shatash are invaluable in their role as a breeding pair, I sometimes think about what it would be like for them to be able to fly without boundaries. But they are giving their offspring the chance they deserve and doing a spectacular job.

      Thanks again Ron and the entire condor team, you are appreciated.

  6. Love the new pen view! One more precious condor will fly free. Thanks for letting us go along for the ride.

  7. Just saw Sisquoc take a bath. Then he shoved Antiki off the nest ledge and she took several more timid dips in the pool. I think I have identified them correctly. First time I’ve seen them bathe. Just like the small birds bath in my bird bath.
    While a was watching, a large bird shadow passed over the pen 3 times. Any idea what kind of large bird might be visiting?

  8. Edith, I suspect the large birds flying over the pen are turkey vultures. They are very large (albeit not as large as condors) and can often be seen flying over the Safari Park area.

  9. Thanks for the great view of the whole family. Shatash is sunning her wings. Sisquoc is watching over a dozing Antiki. Best view of a family I have ever seen.

  10. The camera panned to the other pens this morning…it looks like all the neighboring condor pairs have chicks that have fledged as well! Great to see this and looking forward to seeing these youngsters in the big pen later on this year. Many thanks to the condor team for your hard work and dedication! :)

  11. This morning I noticed three of the condors were sitting there with their wings all stretched out….was wondering if the rain bothered them?.

    Thank you

    Monitor’s note: No, it doesn’t bother them. They have places to get out of the rain if they choose.

  12. I see that the camera view has been switched back to the socialization pen. Has Antiki been moved to that pen? If so, what is her wing tag number? Thank you for all you do for these birds.

    Monitor’s note: Yes, she has been moved. We’ll have a new blog up shortly! :)

    • I think Antiki’s “moving day” was October 8…have been waiting to see her in the “big house”! :) I’m sure there will be a new blog post soon about wing tag numbers and her companions in the socialization pen. I heard somewhere that the SD Condor program had more breeding pairs this year so the keepers are probably extra busy.

      Monitor’s note: You’re right, a blog will be posted this week! Thanks for understanding about how busy the Condor Team is. :)

      • I just logged on to the condor cam and got a close up view of a young condor with a pink tag. It was out of focus and quickly changed to the normal long view. Great news that there are more breeding pairs of condors this year. thank you, Dianne. Bet this is the kind of busy the keepers love!