For the first time in some 36 years, an endangered California condor chick fledged from a nest in Santa Barbara County, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials announced Monday.
The chick — known as condor number 933 — successfully took flight last month from the cliff-side nest in the backcountry of the Los Padres National Forest, marking the first time that’s happened in the county since 1982, according to a statement from the federal wildlife agency.
“This is cause for celebration for everyone dedicated to saving California condors, but is particularly rewarding for us at the Santa Barbara Zoo, as the chick fledged in our ‘backyard,’” Santa Barbara Zoo CEO Rich Block said in the statement.
Hatched in late April, condor 933 was raised by a 6-year-old female and a 38-year-old male for six months in the northern part of the county before the majestic bird took its first short flight.
The chick is also the first offspring of the male — known as AC-4 — to have successfully fledged, officials report. The adult male condor has played a significant role in the recovery of the species, which was near extinction when he was captured in the 1980s to create a captive breeding.
At the time, there were only 22 California condors left on the planet, according to the statement.
Condor 933’s recent achievement “represents a milestone” for the recovery program, capping off what has already been a record-breaking nesting season for Southern California condors this year.
In 2018, scientists located 12 nests, which is the largest number across the broadcast range documented in the area.
“This record-breaking nesting season signals continued progress in the recovery of the California condor,” said Joseph Brandt, supervisory wildlife biologist with the Service’s Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “We are seeing more condors and more nests in more places in Southern California than ever before.”
California condors were designated an endangered species when the number of birds dropped precariously in the mid-20th century. After dipping to a low of 22 in 1982, the latest count places the condor population at roughly 470 birds around the globe.
In addition to Santa Barbara County, wild condors are found in mountainous parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, Kern, San Luis Obispo, Benito and Monterey counties. More recently, the large birds have populated the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Tulare and Fresno counties.