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Record hatching year offers hope for endangered condors

May 13, 2024, 11:50 a.m.
Topic: Conservation and species recovery, Arrivals and departures
A fluffy california condor chick in a nest box

13 California condor chicks have hatched at Oregon Zoo’s wildlife conservation center

Thirteen fluffy California condor chicks are hopping in their nest boxes at the Oregon Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation this month — the biggest cohort yet in the zoo’s 21-year effort to save this critically endangered species from extinction.

“It’s been an incredible hatching season,” said Travis Koons, who oversees the zoo’s bird populations and northwest species recovery efforts. “We’ve been working for decades to help raise as many condors as possible, and this has been our most successful year ever.”

The chicks will stay with their parents for at least eight months before moving to pre-release pens for about a year. Eventually, they will travel to a wild release site to join free-flying condors in California and Arizona.

“The first California condor to hatch at our conservation center turned 2o this month,” Koons said. “He and his mate live in Pinnacles National Park now. They’re raising their fifth wild chick, and it’s exciting to think some of our newest arrivals could be meeting them there in a couple years.”

With only around 560 California condors in the world, each new chick is vitally important to the species’ recovery, Koons said.

The California condor was one of the original animals included on the 1973 Endangered Species Act and is classified as critically endangered. In 1982, only 22 individuals remained in the wild and by 1987, the last condors were brought into human care in an attempt to save the species from extinction. Thanks to recovery programs like the Oregon Zoo’s, the world’s California condor population now totals around 560 birds, most of which are flying free.

The Oregon Zoo’s condor recovery efforts take place at the Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, located in rural Clackamas County on Metro-owned open land. The remoteness of the facility minimizes the exposure of young condors to people, increasing the chances for captive-hatched birds to survive and breed in the wild.

More than 120 chicks have hatched at the Jonsson Center since 2003, and nearly 100 Oregon Zoo-reared birds have gone out to field pens for release. Several eggs laid by Oregon Zoo condors have been placed in wild nests to hatch. 

As part of Metro, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home. Committed to conservation, the zoo acts globally on behalf of species from pikas to polar bears. Over the past 30 years, it has prevented extinctions, expanded populations, advanced conservation science and formed powerful communities to protect wildlife in the Northwest and around the world.

Upgrades and new equipment at the Jonsson Center have been made possible through continued support from the Avangrid Foundation and donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation, which supports the zoo’s efforts in advancing animal well-being, species recovery work and conservation education. To contribute, go to