Condor chick confirmed at Zion National Park in Utah

A female California condor spreads her wings May 13 in Utah’s Zion National Park. Biologists have confirmed that an egg laid by this condor has hatched in a crevice of the park’s sweeping red-rock cliffs.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A sweeping red-rock cliff at Utah’s Zion National Park is now the home of a new California condor chick as the species makes a comeback in the wild three decades after being on the brink of extinction, biologists have confirmed.

The chick is believed to have hatched in early May on the cliffs just north of Angels Landing, park rangers said. If it survives to flying age in November, it will be the first California condor chick to fledge at the park.

“We’re hoping it does fledge, it takes off out of the nest and successfully flies off,” Eugenne Moisa, a Zion National Park ranger, said Wednesday.

Birds raised in captivity were first released at Vermilion Cliffs near the Arizona-Utah line in 1996, and now more than 88 are flying in the two states.

The new chick’s parents are the only identified breeding pair in Zion, and are estimated to have been together two years. The female was born in 2006 at the San Diego Zoo and the male hatched in 2009 in Boise, Idaho, before being released into the wild.

They were bred as part of a program that started after the number of California condors that were left in the world dwindled to 22. The remaining wild condors were captured and held in captivity to keep them safe and launch the breeding program involving government agencies, private organizations, citizens and biologists.

The Zion chick marks the 1,000th bird hatched as part of the program, and the surviving condor population now numbers more than 500. More than half of those birds are living in the wild along a range that includes Arizona, Utah, California and northern Mexico.

Condor eggs are typically laid on the floor of caves or of large crevices, and the parents share incubation duties. Baby condors typically make their first flight after six months but might stay in the nesting area for up to a year as their parents feed them and teach them how to scavenge for meat.

That means the condor parents can only reproduce every two years at most. At Zion, three chicks have been born but died before they were old enough to fly.

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