Biologists at Pinnacles National Monument have verified the successful hatching of a condor egg inside the monument. The young nestling is the first California condor known to hatch at Pinnacles in over 100 years.
Two seven-year-old condors -- Condor 317, a female released at the monument in 2004, and Condor 318, a male released along the Big Sur coast by Ventana Wildlife Society -- were seen in courtship displays during the winter and paired up for their first breeding attempt.
NPS wildlife biologist Daniel George reports that the first-time parent condors have been exhibiting normal behavior, regularly feeding and incubating the new nestling. The milestone highlights regional efforts to bring the condor back from the brink of extinction.
"It is really great to see a condor that we have invested so much time and effort in now breeding in the wild,” said Joe Burnett, condor biologist for the Ventana Wildlife Society.
“We are thrilled that, after being involved with the condor recovery program since 2003, the park has its first condor chick from the first nest in over 100 years,” said superintendent Eric Brunnemann, noting that the condors had also fortuitously selected a nesting location that can be easily viewed by the public from the Scout Peak bench on the High Peaks Trail.
Although the areas directly around the nest cliff will be closed to public use for the duration of the nesting period, public viewing is still possible. The strenuous hike to the viewing area is approximately two miles from the closest East or West Side parking areas. From the west, the elevation gain is approximately 1100 feet, and from the east it is over 1200 feet. Visitors are advised to check at the park's visitor center for more complete directions to the viewing area.
A temporary closure area around the nest cliff is in effect during the 2010 breeding season. An area extending from Western Front to Goat Rock and north to the edge of the Juniper Canyon Trail will be closed to protect the nesting birds. The Juniper Canyon and High Peaks trails remain open. Park visitors interested in off trail activities within the park should consult with a park ranger for specific guidance.
Violation of this emergency closure is punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not exceeding six months, or both (36 CFR §1.5(f) or 16 U.S.C §§1531-1543).
Biologists will be closely monitoring the nest throughout the breeding cycle. Nestlings remain flightless for five-and-a-half to six months. If the new parents succeed in rearing the young condor, the first flight will likely occur in early October.