Moving Day for Antiki

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Watch for Antiki in the socialization pen—she wears white wing tag #77.

October can be a busy month at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Breeding Facility. This is the time of the year when we start to prepare for the next breeding season: clean nests, conduct routine health exams, and provide maintenance to flight pens that were previously off-limits to keepers because of the presence of our young chicks slated for release to the wild. But before we can start anything, we need to move the recently-fledged chicks to their new home— our socialization pen.

Our remote socialization pen is approximately one mile from the main part of the Safari Park. There, this year’s Condor Cam chick, Antiki, is isolated from any human activity and socialized with other fledglings her age. 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 turn aggressive to the chick if they try to nest again.

Before her move, we affixed a wing tag to Antiki’s right wing for identification purposes. She is now wearing white wing tag 77. She is now sharing this large pen with five other condors:

  • Xananan (ha-NA-nan): Female, 11 years old, wearing tag Blue 21 (left wing).
  • Sunan (SOO-nahn): Female, 1 ½ years old, wearing tag Blue 49 (right wing).
  • Eeuukey (ee-YOO-kee): Male, 6 months old, wearing tag Blue 84 (right wing).
  • Pali (PAH-lee): Male, 6 months old, wearing tag Yellow 96 (right wing).
  • Uqushtay (oo-KOOSH-tay): Female, 6 months old, wearing tag Red 97 (right wing).

Antiki, Eeuukey, Pali, and Uqushtay have been getting to know each other in an adjacent pen. On October 22, we opened the gate into the large pen where they were able to meet the older birds, Xananan and Sunan.

California condors that are expected to be released to the wild are called “release candidates.” We raise all of our condor chicks as if they are release candidates until we hear otherwise from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the California Condor Recovery Program. We have yet to hear if and/or where any of this year’s fledglings will be released. Release candidates are isolated from humans. We offer their food through a chute in the wall. The pools are drained and rinsed from the outside of the pen. The only time the birds see us is during a medical procedure: affixing wing tags, pre-shipment examinations, or West Nile Virus inoculations. These generally are not enjoyable experiences for the young condors, and that is what we want them to learn from us before they are shipped to the wild. We don’t want them to associate humans with anything beneficial. We are hoping to foster behaviors that wild condors would have: avoiding human activity and hazardous, artificial situations. Survival rates for condors that become accustomed to humans and human activity are very low.

One of Antiki’s new pen-mates has a very important role. Xananan, the adult, is acting as the young birds’ new “mentor.” The mentor’s job is to facilitate the socialization of the fledglings. Condors are very social and, like us, need to learn the rules of how to interact in a group. The parent condors started this process when the chicks hatched, and continued it as the youngsters eventually fledged. Now that they are no longer living with their parents, the chicks’ “education” will be furthered by Xananan. She will be the dominant bird in the pen, often displacing the fledglings from perches or roost sites or pushing them from the food until she has eaten first. The dominant birds at a site are usually the biggest ones, and often the most experienced. The young condors need to learn how to interact with these dominant and pushy birds in order to be successful in the wild.

Viewers of last year’s Condor Cam will probably remember Sunan. She was raised on camera by her foster parents, Towich (TOE-witch) and Sulu (SOO-loo). Sunan seemed to be a little smaller than her pen-mates and more subordinate. It was decided, as a precaution, to keep her here at the Safari Park for one more year before releasing her to the wild in order to give her more time and experience with different birds. So, the good news is that her fans get more Sunan-viewing time!

The socialization pen is very large with lots of space to fly around and exercise wings. There are several large oak snags on which to perch or roost. Also, there are two pools from which to drink or bathe. There are several ground level perches and boulders to hop around on, as well. It is interesting to see the social development of each bird. They can choose to perch next to whichever bird they wish, so they really get to know each other well. We have learned that young condors that aren’t well-socialized tend not to be successful once they are released to the wild.

So far, Antiki is integrating well into the group. She has been seen eating near the older birds; she seems to be a very confident girl! She flies very well in the pen and interacts appropriately with her new pen-mates. Her parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, have done a great job preparing her for the big, wide world! As time passes, we should see the whole group settling in, perching, and feeding together. Feel free to post any comments or questions, and we’ll try to get them answered as soon as we can. Enjoy!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, Fledged!

23 Responses to Moving Day for Antiki

  1. Thank you for confirming that Antiki has been moved to the socialization pen and that she’s doing so well. Makes me feel like a proud parent except that you and the others (including Antiki’s Mom and Dad) are doing all the work!

    I love seeing all of them grow and mature but I have a special attachment to Antiki and Sunan, they were my first two to watch from being hatched to where they are now.

    Again, many thanks for all your hard work Ron and the whole Condor team!

  2. So happy to hear that Antiki is socializing in the large pen and she’s getting along fine. We all thought she was a very confident young lady. Thanks for the update.

  3. Thanks for the update. I expect Antiki to do very well. She has seemed to be assertive with her parents from the time she was a small chick.
    Glad to hear that Sunan is being given time to mature more. She and Antiki demonstrate how different condors can be from one another.
    Looking forward to the release of these girls in the future. Also looking forward to watching the next chick hatch and develop. My favorite parents are Sisquoc and Shatash. I/ve enjoyed watching them since they hatched Saticoy.
    Ron, you and your team are working a miracle with the California Condors. Thank you.

  4. I am always amazed how fast time flies,

    This girl , from the beginning, seemed very confident. I know she will do well. As always Ron and staff, excellent job.

  5. This morning I see a small bird flitting around near the ground and sitting on a log. How do small birds get into the flight cage? Can they survive in there or do they manage to get out? The condors are not paying any attention to it. I suspect they would only be interested in it if it died.

    Monitor’s note: They are small enough to get in through the openings in the mesh. And you’re right, the condors don’t have any interest in them.

  6. The birds in the flight pen seem to use all of the Perches ( trees, rocks stumps etc.) . I notice that they never use the utility pole for a perch, why is that ?

    • The utility pole is a training device to teach the condors that these are not appropriate perches to use once they are released. It is wired to deliver an unpleasant, but harmless shock to the young birds if they try to perch there. Condors are smart; it usually only takes once. There are many hazards facing condors in the wild. Don’t want electrocution to be among them. :)

  7. Hi Ron and Staff. I’ve often wondered how the wing tags are attached. It seems like they would be uncomfortable, possibly could cause damage to a wing, or interfere with flying. Would you please explain the process of application?
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Monitor’s note: Your comment has been forwarded to the Condor Team.

  8. Hi. Hope you all had a wonder filled Thankgiving.
    Does Sunan have a light pink head now or is it still dark gray? I can’t remember her wing tag number. I’m quite sure I saw Antiki this evening. The light was just right to see a white 77. I think I remember her number as 77. Just saw a condor with a light head shoo a dark headed condor off a prime perch. They are really learning proper social interaction.
    Thanks for this opportunity to watch the teenage condors.

  9. Congratulations on the newest condor egg! Who are the parents?
    Merry Christmas to all!

    • Parents are Xas (#319) and Pismo (#36). Way to go!! (This is so incredibly early. Do we blame El Nino?) 😉

  10. Where did the info about a new egg come from? These are different parents. Will they be on camera?

    Monitor’s note: The first egg of the season was announced on SDZG website. At this point, we do not know which pair will be on Condor Cam this year.

    • You can always tell an expert! Thanks for conbnitutirg.

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  11. Thanks for the info.
    I understood there were 6 condors in the flight cage. This AM I counted 7 and possibly 8. Have some been added to the group?

    Monitor’s note: here are still just 6 condors in the flight pen. Sometimes when birds are perched closely together and have their wings spread in a sunning posture, it can be difficult to get an accurate count.

    The birds are: males Eeuukey and Pali; females Sunan, Antiki, Uqushtay, and Xananan, who is also the mentor.

  12. Hi. Could the angle of the camera be returned to the former angle? This is showing a lot of covering net and less of the floor where the condors walk and use rocks to perch. Thanks.

  13. Thank you for changing the angle of the camera.

  14. Hi. I feel like I’m the only one watching the young condors. No other comments.
    Today I saw one of the birds fly up from the ground to the large tree where 4 condors were perched. It started low and gradually forcee each bird off the tree as ot ascended. All except one wjo wouldn’t fly away, but did move from the top of the tree to the next limb as the boss bird pushed it. I wonder if that is the adult teacher. The bird that moved down, but refused to leave has a white right wing tag. I couldn’t read the number. I wonder if it was Antiki. She was always such an assertive chick. Do you keep track of the youngsters’ behavior? If so would you share it with us? I cannot read the wing tag numbers.
    Thanks.

    Monitor’s note: You’re not the only one watching, honest! :) Perhaps others are just content to watch? I’ll forward your question to the Condor Team and post their reply here, but please keep in mind that it’s condor breeding season so they are all extremely busy and may not be able to answer right away.

  15. I notice something white fluttering in the top netting above the tall, distant tree perch. Is that someone’s wing tag? I’ve asked before how the tags are attached. Can they be pulled loose? Would that damage a wing? Very willing to wait for anwers after breeding season. I trust your comment means there is breeding activity so I’m hoping to hear there are fertile eggs being layed in the near future.
    Thanks from the pest.

    Monitor’s note: One of the keepers is working on a blog that will include information about how the wing tags are attached, so hopefully your question will be answered soon. But in the meantime, I can state with confidence that plenty of thought went into the method researchers use to attach the tags to insure that the animal wouldn’t be harmed or impeded by wearing it. And you’re not a pest! :) We understand, admire,appreciate, and share your passion for these birds.

  16. Hi Team I was wandering where are the Condors when you don’t see them on the camera . Is the pen much larger that we see?

    Monitor’s note: Yes, there is more to that area than we’re able to get on camera. And the camera at this point is fixed, so we don’t have the ability to move it to follow the birds.

  17. Yes, I saw an empty camera view for the first time. Today is a rare view with all 6 of them present at the same time.