Friday, June 19, 2009

More on Condors

Once upon a time, there were three condors sitting on a ledge. The lower condor is No. 280, a female hatched on May 3, 2002 and released at the Vermilion Cliffs on November 29, 2003. The bird on the upper left is a young bird, perhaps about one year old and is not tagged. You can tell it is young by its black head. To the right of the baby is No. 123, a male and an old and venerable member of the Arizona flock, hatched on May 20, 1995 and released on May 26 1997. They don't know for sure yet, but they suspect condors may live to be 70 years old.

Is this a family gathering? At one point the adults did seem to be showing the young bird how to spread his wings to warm them in the setting sun. Condors also spread their wings like this to straighten out the feathers which may have gotten bent out of shape from the air pressure during the day's flying.

The ledge they are sunning themselves on at the end of the day is down below a very busy viewing spot called Lookout Studio near Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon. At first, the humans are totally unaware of the gathering below them.

Along came A6, a juvenile perhaps about four or five years old. You can tell this is a juvenile because although the head has some pinkish color to it, it is mottled and not as bright as the adults. (I couldn't find the statistics on A6.)

When A6 lands on the same ledge as the trio, 280 decides to investigate the newcomer and to put him in his place. Condors have a keen sense of hierarchy, adults are dominant over juveniles, and generally, adult males are dominant over adult females. In this photo, you can see 280's bright red crop below her neck which bulges with the food she has eaten. You can also easily see the antennae of her transmitters attached over the number tags on her wings. Someday, it is hoped, the birds will not have to wear these tags and be so closely watched and will all be able to fly free and unencumbered. (They only show the last two digits of her number on the tags to keep them from being too large.)

She lets her wing brush up against A6 as a warning, not as an attack.

They sit and stare at each other for a long time. 280 averts her head to prevent A6 from being able to peck at her.

Finally, A6 gets the message, "This is my ledge. Go find another spot to roost tonight," and takes off for a nearby treetop. Later 123 and the baby join A6 in the trees and 280 is left with the ledge all to herself.


  1. A very well told story

  2. Great photos!

    I saw 3 ospreys last week in the Sierras. My pix are not as good as yours, but I will post them soon.