Friday, September 09, 2005

California Condor Problems

Thanks to my bird pal, Ian, for sharing this with me.

California Condor Problems

It was only about twenty years ago that the chances for California Condor survival seemed almost hopeless. Since then, daring approaches, solid science, hard work, and a spirit of optimism have buoyed chances for the condor's positive future.

With healthy appearing experimental populations flying free, it seems as though we may have turned the corner, or at least approached the corner, for this species.

Lead bullets in the environment (i.e., in carrion) have been seen as the only significant impediment to condor population growth, while other things have certainly been looking up.

Last month, however, researchers at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in California had to remove a condor chick from the nest of male #21 and female #192. The chick appeared to be underdeveloped and was losing feathers; however, once in hand, the bird to have something impacted in its crop and gut.

After transporting the chick to the Los Angeles Zoo, and following a three-hour operation, an astounding amount of material was removed from the ventriculus and proventriculus of the condor chick. The following items were among the debris removed from the chick: 4 bottle caps and a screw top, 3 electrical fittings, 5 washers, 13 22-caliber shell-casings, 1 38-caliber shell-casing, a shotgun-shell, several pieces of plastic bags, about a quarter cup of broken glass and a similar amount of broken plastic, a few small pieces of fabric, 4 small stones, a metal bracket, a piece of wire, and a few small pieces of rubber.

Fortunately, it did not appear that any of this remarkable collection of detritus perforated the gut, and currently the chick appears to be doing well.

Does this mean that all adult condors are attracted to ubiquitous shiny objects and will bring them back to their nest for their chicks? Or does this simply mean that male #21 and/or female #192 have this tendency? If the first option is the case, then the species is clearly in deep trouble, since these sorts of objects are virtually everywhere in a condor's environment. If the second is the case - with this unfortunate chick simply having "idiot parents" - then we should remain hopeful.

Jerry W. Davis

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© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

5 Peer Reviews:

Blogger Tabor said...

How will we ever know? Scientists aren't sampling the guts of adult condors, are they? If it is unique to this particular set of parents, by saving the baby bird maybe scientists have insured that this defective gene will continue. The baby condor must have weighed a lot!

4:34 AM  
Blogger Tom Dilatush said...

It seems to me that if the condor recovery is going well, with an increasing population, then ... it's probably true that the condors are not full of shiny metal and glass junk. I hope my logic is correct!

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Chardyspal said...

Here is a link to an article I found about California Condors and trash that readers may find interesting:

1:32 PM  
Blogger aneides said...

i was recently watching a show on pbs, about conservation efforts in israel. it seems there has been a problem with griffon vultures feeding their babies shrapnel, which they mistake for pieces of bone.

maybe the california condors are doing something similar?

11:58 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Chardyspal; Great article! I am going to link to that from the next issue of Birds in the News!


2:02 PM  

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