Three's company: third bird joins zoo's new condor-minium

April 23, 2014 - 9:37am

No. 432 joins Kaweah and Tyrion in soon-to-open Condors of the Columbia habitat

"Keep calm and carrion" seems to be the motto of three California condors settling in at the Oregon Zoo this month. Keepers say the critically endangered scavengers have taken to their new zoo home with nary a ruffled feather.

Condors of the Columbia — the third of eight major projects funded by the community-supported 2008 zoo bond measure — opens to the public May 24, and until then the enormous birds will continue to enjoy a high-profile settling-in period.

Kaweah and Tyrion both moved in April 9, and a third condor, known simply as No. 432, joined them in the habitat last week. Curator Michael Illig says the birds already seem to feel at home in their new space, and haven't been fazed by either zoo visitors or nearby Elephant Lands construction.

"These three are pretty unflappable," said curator Michael Illig. "Kaweah sort of rules the roost. He's the oldest of the three, and the one visitors are most likely to see up close. He's just as interested in people as they are in him."

On April 12, the zoo reopened the visitor path between Cougar Crossing and the Family Farm, allowing some fairly good views of the condors as they flap about the aviary, perching high on 20-foot tree snags or sunning their impressive 9-foot wingspans. The huge scavengers can also be seen from above by visitors strolling up and down the boardwalk leading into the zoo.

The newest arrival, condor No. 432, is 6 years old and just coming into full adulthood. He has previously been on exhibit at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Though not considered a good candidate for release into the wild, he is expected to one day rejoin the breeding population at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, where the zoo has participated in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California Condor Recovery Program since 2003.

The $2.3 million Condors of the Columbia habitat was named for the "buzzards of the Columbia" referenced in Meriwether Lewis' journals during the Lewis and Clark expedition. Though native to the region, and commonly seen here during the time of Lewis and Clark, California condors haven't soared through Northwest skies for more than a century.