Condor Cam: The Proud Parents

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Sisquoc is an experienced father.

We’re excited to offer a unique view into a California condor’s nest via our new Condor Cam. I’d like to share a bit of information to help you enjoy what you’re seeing and how to tell “who’s who” on the Cam. If you have any questions about what you’re seeing, feel free to ask them in the “Comments” section at the end of this post, and we’ll do our best to provide answers.

The male condor in this pair is named Sisquoc (pronounced “SISS-kwawk”), and he is wearing yellow wing tags (#28). The female is called Shatash (pronounced “shah-TAHSH”); she is not wearing any wing tags. Sisquoc is the largest California condor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, weighing in at 25 pounds (11 kilograms). He is visibly larger than Shatash.

At 2 weeks old, Sisquoc was fed by a keeper wearing a condor puppet.

Sisquoc was the first California condor ever hatched in a zoo (his egg was laid in the wild and brought to the San Diego Zoo for incubation). He emerged from his shell on March 30, 1983, and news of his hatching triggered an outpouring of mail from all over the world. Congratulatory letters were sent by conservationists, zoos, governments, school classrooms, and many individuals, all wanting to help with the condor project. And look at him now—time flies, doesn’t it?

Shatash hatched at the Los Angeles Zoo, one of our partners in the condor recovery program. Her father was the first condor to hatch at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (again, from a wild-laid egg), back in 1985.
Sisquoc and Shatash have been paired together since 1993. This is their 21st egg. Fifteen chicks have hatched, and Sisquoc and Shatash have raised six of them themselves. The other chicks were raised by keepers who used a condor puppet so the chicks wouldn’t imprint on their human caretakers. Sisquoc and Shatash have proven to be great and reliable parents.

California condors tend to be monogamous and share ALL nest duties: incubating the egg, brooding the chick, feeding the chick, and defending the nest. Throughout incubation you will see Sisquoc and Shatash take turns sitting on the egg to keep it warm. You may see them roll or turn the egg periodically. This gentle egg movement is crucial for the development of the growing embryo.

Incubation bouts can be very short: just a few minutes or birds can sit for two or three days, so don’t be alarmed! Sometimes the parents will sit together in the nest. Condor eggs incubate at about 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius). Their egg was laid January 12, 2012, and we are expecting it to “pip,” or start hatching, after 55 days of incubation, around March 7, 2012. We can’t wait!

Ron Webb is a senior condor keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.