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Seven chicks and counting: Zoo welcomes first condors of 2024

April 5, 2024, 10:31 a.m.
Topic: Conservation and species recovery, Arrivals and departures
condor chick in nest box

Condor recovery efforts are off to promising start at zoo’s wildlife conservation center

Seven fluffy chicks hatched last month at the Oregon Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation, marking the beginning of what looks to be another outstanding year in the effort to save this critically endangered species.

“It’s been an incredible season so far,” said Travis Koons, who oversees the zoo’s bird populations and northwest species recovery efforts. “All seven chicks are eating well and growing stronger every day. They’re just little fuzzballs now, but in a year or two they’ll be spreading some enormous wings and soaring through the open sky.” 

Since late January, condors at the Jonsson Center have been laying the groundwork for species recovery one egg at a time. Several other fertile eggs have been laid this year and more chicks are expected soon. With scarcely more than 500 California condors left in the world, each new chick is vitally important, Koons said.

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 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 500 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 114 chicks have hatched at the Jonsson Center since 2003, and more than 73 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.