The Zoo’s Bird Department has known that the Andean condors Vultur gryphus on Eagle Trail had a fuzzy chick since April. On September 23, 2013, I got to see the chick leave the cave nest and become a fledgling! Earlier that day, the chick had been moving around the cave and was seen standing near the opening. It wasn’t until the day’s waning at 6 p.m. that the chick finally decided to come out and explore its enclosure.
I was working the evening shift and was lucky enough to be walking nearby when a fluffy brown object caught my eye. The adult Andean condors in the exhibit are mostly black, so I knew either a huge brown cotton ball had somehow gotten into the exhibit, or the condor chick had finally flown the coop! As it turned out, the chick didn’t feel comfortable actually flying but instead chose to investigate by hopping around the grass and rocks.
Initially, both Mom and Dad watched the fledgling from their perches high in the exhibit. It wasn’t until the fledge tried—and failed—to climb the large rock near the front of the exhibit that Dad flew down. I paid close attention to the adult’s behavior, curious myself as to how he would act toward the young bird now that it had left the nest. To my delight, Dad walked up to the fledgling and showed it how to climb the large rock to the top! At the summit, Father and fledge spent a few minutes looking around together before the adult took flight back to his nightly perch, leaving the youngster to continue its exploration.
Mike Grue is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Favorite Bird Moments: Splashing and Bug Collecting.