California condor chick hatches in Zion National Park

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SPRINGDALE, Utah - After months of mere speculation, biologists in Zion National Park can now make the official birth announcement.

A pair of California condors has hatched a chick, park officials said Tuesday.

It’s the first wild-born California condor in Utah since organizations began reintroduction efforts in the 1990s. The California condor had been poisoned to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.

Fewer than 25 existed when The Peregrine Fund began work to revive the population in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Several pairs have successfully mated in the Vermilion Cliffs area of northern Arizona. The family of condors in Zion shows the birds are adapting to the habitat, and fighting for survival.

“The birds have slowly expanded within what we would now assume to be their home range of about a 70-mile radius from the release site,” said Peregrine Fund Condor Project supervisor Chris Parish.

Parish said Zion National Park is an ideal habitat for the California condor, with plenty of food and high cliffs to nest in. This particular hatching is significant because both of the adults are first time parents.

Parish said it’s actually quite rare the first attempt at mating is successful.

“We reproduce birds in captivity with pretty regular success, and we can release birds to the wild,” Parish said. “But having parents rear those birds and hatch them in the wild, is by far the best situation, just like it is with any type of wildlife.”

Biologists will continue to monitor the condor family. The next milestone will be the fledging, when the chick will fly from the nest.

Biologists say that should happen sometime in November or December.

“This may be the beginning of starting a resident population right here in the Zion canyon,” said Zion National Park Chief of Natural Resources Fred Armstrong.

Armstrong said they’re not releasing the location of the nest, as a way to protect the parents and the chick. Because many have expressed interest in seeing the chick, the park is referring people to the San Diego Zoo.

Zookeepers there successfully hatched a chick the same time the Zion chick was born. To see that chick, visit the San Diego Zoo’s website, http://www.sandiegozooglobal.org/video/condor_cam.