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California Condors Reach A Milestone Moment


A comeback story now. In the 1980s, there were less than two dozen California condors left in the world. They were rounded up and put into a captive breeding program. Their offspring were released into the wild. After years of conservation, biologists say there's a milestone now. Chick No. 1,000 has hatched.

Tim Hauck manages the condor reintroduction program at The Peregrine Fund. He joins us now from Flagstaff, Ariz. Thanks so much for being with us.

TIM HAUCK: It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: May we ask - where is the hatchling?

HAUCK: Well, the hatchling for - this chick 1,000 is actually in Zion National Park below a very famous hike in Zion Canyon called Angels Landing.

SIMON: And what do we know about the little guy? - girl?

HAUCK: Well, we don't know the sex, and we won't know for quite a while. You're not able to identify the sex without a blood test, so time will tell. But for now, we know that the parents are doing well, and they're feeding this chick regularly. And it was laid on the 13 of March and hatched around the 9 of May. And hopefully, if all goes well, this bird will fledge in November.

SIMON: Fledge - I don't know that term.

HAUCK: Well, the word fledge refers to when that bird will leave the nest cave for the first time and take flight into the wild.

SIMON: Oh, wow - fly. OK. I'm going to use that from now on. You've dedicated your professional life to condors, haven't you?

HAUCK: That's correct.

SIMON: What do you find so fascinating? What do you revere about the bird?

HAUCK: Well, condors are one of the very unique species of birds in North America and in the world, for that matter. They're extremely personable. They'll have individual personalities. And as biologists, we really get to know these birds on a one-to-one level, so they end up meaning quite a bit to us, and we get quite attached.

SIMON: Oh, my word. Well, when you say they have personality, can you explain that a little bit to those of us that have never had the pleasure of knowing a condor?

HAUCK: Absolutely. Condors are very curious, to say the least. So they can often be seen, you know, playing with bones at a feeding site or tossing around an old tin can. And oftentimes, we get to observe this intimate behavior that most people don't get to see. But they also have a great social structure within their population - so a hierarchy. And so there's a lot of interaction between young individuals, adults, the peers, and it's all quite interesting to watch. And each individual condor has a tendency to exhibit very specific personal traits.

SIMON: What's the significance of chick No. 1,000 being hatched?

HAUCK: What it represents is the 1,000th chick produced since the condor recovery began. The other thing it represents to me is the success that we've seen with wild breeding. So condors released or bred in captivity - excuse me - and released into the wild have now begun breeding. And so we even have wild-hatched condors that are now of age which - it takes about five years to reach breeding age - and they're now producing in the wild. So we're seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before. And that's just a step towards success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.

SIMON: Do you know what the condor population is right now?

HAUCK: I do, yeah. So in the world, we have over 500 condors now, and that includes captive breeding programs and the wild. And in the wild, collectively, we have over 300.

SIMON: Well, and may they grow, right?

HAUCK: Yeah. Here's to seeing that population increase every year.

SIMON: Tim Hauck, manager of The Peregrine Fund's condor reintroduction program. Thanks so much for being with us.

HAUCK: Thank you. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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