Condor Chick Watching: Age 3 to 4 Weeks

The chick feels safe in the corner of the nest box on April 16.

The chick feels safe in the corner of the nest box on April 16.

At 3 weeks of age and 42 to 52 ounces (1.2 to 1.5 kilograms), our California condor chick can start to thermoregulate, or control its own body temperature. This is when the parents can start leaving the chick on its own during the day. Depending on the ambient temperature, the chick may be seen shivering or panting in an effort to warm or cool itself. Also, on warm days, the chick may inflate the air sacs in its chin and neck to cool down. Air sac inflation can also occur after a particularly filling meal. Often, Sisquoc or Shatash may spend time in the nest with the chick, but they may not necessarily sit on the chick.

The chick is more mobile, scooting around the nest on its haunches, or tarsal joints. We refer to this as a tarsal crawl. It’s not quite standing up on its feet, but it can move about, following the parents and investigating different parts of the nest. You may see the chick start to gather items (feather, scraps of old food) from around the nest and move them to one corner. The chick likes to sit or sleep on this pile and play with the different items. These feathers and old food scraps are often brought to the nest by the parents. Birds replace their feathers through a process called molting, kind of like when mammals shed their hair/fur. We don’t know if the parents are bringing these items to the nest specifically for the chick or if it’s just happenstance, but the chick loves to investigate and play with them!

As the parents start leaving the chick alone for longer periods of time, it will be easier to watch the chick when it sleeps. Just like all growing youngsters, condor chicks sleep A LOT. With longer legs and gawky bodies, they often sprawl out, wings askew, in odd positions when they sleep. Do not worry! The chick is perfectly fine.

At approximately 1 month of age, the chick weighs around 3.9 pounds (1.8 kilograms). The parents may start leaving the chick alone overnight, sleeping near the nest. If the weather is still cool or it’s raining, the parents may continue to brood overnight until the weather improves. Even though the parents are increasing their time away from the chick, they remain VERY vigilant and protective of their nest and, especially, their chick. I hope you continue to watch the chick grow on Condor Cam!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous post, Condor Chick Watching: Age 2 to 3 Weeks.

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