A California condor chick has successfully fledged from a cliff-side nest in Santa Barbara County for the first time in more than 30 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife officials say the chick, known as “condor 933,” hatched in late April and took its first short flight last month. It was raised by a six-year-old female and a 38-year-old male, known as “AC-4,” in the northern Santa Barbara backcountry of the Los Padres National Forest.
California condors were placed on the Endangered Species Act after their numbers declined dramatically in the mid-20th century. By the 1980s, there were only a few dozen of the birds left in the wild and they were captured by biologists to create a captive breeding program.
AC-4, which was fledged from the Santa Barbara backcountry in 1980, was among those birds.
Wildlife officials say he has since sired 30 chicks that were later released into the wild as part of the California Condor Recovery Program.
AC-4 was returned to the wild in 2015. Wildlife officials say condor 933 is the first of his offspring to successfully take flight from its nest in the wild.
The biggest threat to California condors is lead poisoning, which is caused by condors feeding on carcasses containing lead bullet fragments. New laws and regulations implemented in recent years have limited or banned the use of lead ammunition by hunters.
According to the California Condor Recovery Program’s Annual Population Status report, there were 463 condors worldwide in 2017.
Wildlife officials say 2018 was a record-breaking nesting season for California condors in Southern California with 12 nests.
The condor’s habitat includes the mountains of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and Kern counties. More recently, the birds have also been found in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Tulare and Fresno counties.