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Condors in the Grand Canyon
Everyone at the park is cheering the return of endangered California condors to the wild. Of particular excitement is the first successful hatching of condor chicks in Arizona's wilderness in nearly a century. The first chick, which has been nesting in a remote cave located 400 feet up a limestone cliff on the South Rim, fledged in November 2003. The fledging of two additional chicks in 2004 marks an extraordinary success for the Condor Recovery Program at Grand Canyon. For the first time in decades, visitors to Grand Canyon National Park now have an opportunity to see this endangered species soaring free.

The birth of these new condor chicks brings the total population of California condors in Grand Canyon National Park to 51 - fully half of all condors living in the wild. In 1982, the California condor species was functionally extinct with only 22 birds remaining.

Condor Chick in Salt Creek cave
       Condor chick at Salt Creek nesting site -- NPS photo                taken through a long-range spotting scope

The amazing comeback of this once critically endangered species is a testament to the successful efforts of public/private partnerships to restore this magnificent bird to its natural habitat.
Soaring Condor
Photo courtesy of Dave Clements, photographer
Condor Cutie #87
Condor #87 feeling right at home in Grand Canyon
Photo by National Park Service
Help the Park Help the Condors
Virtually all of the condors in Arizona now spend time the majority of their time in the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park is a primary cooperator in the multi-agency effort to re-establish the California condor in the southwestern United States. It is responsible for protecting and managing condors within its boundaries as mandated by the Endangered Species Act. However, the park has just one full-time wildlife biologist who is responsible for managing over one million acres and over 600 wildlife species in the Grand Canyon. Clearly, this single park biologistis unable to provide the intense monitoring and management required to ensure the success of the condor reintroduction effort, let alone educate the visiting public on the importance of this effort.
California CondorSince 2001, the Grand Canyon National Park Foundation has secured funding to help the park monitor and protect condors within the Grand Canyon and offer interpretation to visitors about condor behavior and ecology. Support from the Norcross Wildlife Foundation, the Mattie Wattis Harris Foundation, the Oracle Corporation, and others enabled the park to purchase equipment and hire seasonal technicians to constantly rove areas of high visitor use on the South Rim.

Park technicians like the one pictured above help track and monitor condors as well as talk directly with park visitors about the importance of avoiding interaction with the birds. Funding is still needed to ensure that each year -- from spring through fall -- a park ranger is actively working with visitors to educate them about condors, prevent negative visitor interactions with condors, and help ensure the successful recovery of this magnificant species in the canyon.

Next Steps in the Recovery Program

   California Condors have a wing span up to 9 1/2 feet!
Park technicians will continue to monitor the breeding activity of the condors inside the park, documenting the condors' movement corridors, studying their habitat use as well as their feeding and roosting activity. Currently, Grand Canyon National Park is involved in a formal consultation with United States Fish Wildlife Service regarding the effects of the air tour industry on condors. One priority will be to improve the park's understanding of condor flight patterns and movement corridors, and contribute scientific information to the consultation process.
Additionally, more sophisticated monitoring of the birds will be implemented. This will allow for better coordination between United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Peregrine Fund, and NPS field crews to improve methods of recording and analyzing condor data. The Foundation coordinates the "Condor Nestwatch Program" for interested volunteers. This new interpretive program, launched in 2003, offers park visitors the opportunity to work with a seasonal technician to help collect pertinent breeding and nesting data. Finally, the park will work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to organize safety classes to educate pilots in the Grand Canyon area about the condor project, condor behavior, and ways for avoiding conflicts with condors.
The historic Arizona reintroduction of California condors is a joint project among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Peregrine Fund, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, Southern Utah's Coalition of Resources and Economics, the Grand Canyon National Park Foundation, and others.
Please help by making a donation to support the Condor Recovery Program at Grand Canyon. One hundred percent of your tax-deductible donation will be allocated to this special fund. You can donate online by visiting our Giving Page.

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