Two California Condors Evade Scientists, Produce a Secret Love Child
A romantic getaway in the woods for a couple of California condors produced a thrilling surprise for scientists in Northern California: a carcass-loving bundle of joy.
It’s only the third time a pair of mating condors eluded the prying eyes of researchers in the wild since they started releasing the endangered birds in Big Sur in 1997.
The lovebirds, identified as Shadow and Wild 1, produced an egg and incubated it for two months. They raised the hatchling for six months before the scientists monitoring the Ventana wilderness region discovered it.
According to Joe Burnett, a senior wildlife biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society, the condors’ elaborate mating ritual is typically hard to miss. Suitors hang around a female every day for about a month, fighting each other off.
“[Female condors] make the boys pay their dues,” Burnett told The San Francisco Chronicle. “And when they do finally mate, it’s nothing spectacular. He just mounts her and they copulate for less than a minute.”
According to the group, 425 condors—captive and wild—survive. The birds feed on the carcasses of deer, pigs, and other animals targeted by hunters, who use lead bullets. Lead poisoning nearly wiped out the species 30 years ago. In 1987, scientists captured the last 27 California condors in the wild and placed them in a breeding program. The Big Sur population came from that project.
“This is truly exciting to witness as it offers another example of condors surviving on their own,” Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society, said in a statement.