California Condor Lays Egg in Northern Mexico
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
For the first time in a hundred years, a California Condor chick has hatched in the wild in Mexico. As recently as 1992, California Condors were only found in zoos. Now, they are attempting to reclaim their former rangelands. Condor eggs and condor chicks have been discovered in the U.S. - in the Grand Canyon and in caves in redwood trees in Central California. But this is the first time an egg has hatched south of the border.
NPR's John Nielsen has more.
JOHN NIELSEN: The great big egg that held the chick was laid about a month ago. It was found in an abandoned eagle's nest near the top of a granite cliff in a national park about 100 miles south of San Diego.
Condor expert Mike Wallace of the San Diego Wild Animal Park was the man who found the hatchling. First, he climbed the cliff in 114-degree heat. Then, he dealt with a very angry mother condor.
Dr. MIKE WALLACE (Condor Expert, San Diego Wild Animal Park): She just attacked me. She almost got a hold of me and made me, like, jump as best as I could -all tangled in my harness and everything - if she had had it her way.
NIELSEN: This bird is protecting something more important than an egg, Wallace said to himself.
Dr. WALLACE: And I popped my head over the edge and there was this fuzzy chick. It was just great.
NIELSEN: It probably looking right at you, huh?
Dr. WALLACE: Yeah, well, as best as it could. You know, the head is bobbing back and forth it could barely hold it up.
NIELSEN: Wallace has been waiting for this moment since 2002, when he first released a group of zoo-bred condors near these cliffs. While he has been waiting, condors living north of the border have produced several dozen eggs. Chicks hatched out of some those eggs are now soaring in the wild. But Wallace says the Mexican hatchling is still a milestone.
For one thing, it's been about 70 years since the last official sighting of a condor in Mexico. Also, Wallace says he remembers the bad old days in the 1980s, when a lot of people wrote this species off as doomed. Wallace says the condors didn't get that memo.
Dr. WALLACE: They're out there doing their thing, chasing other birds away from their territories and trying to raise their young and doing everything the way they're supposed to. It's really nice to see.
NIELSEN: Wallace says he plans to climb back up to the nest site on a regular basis from this point on, watching while the hatchling grows its giant black wings and learns to step into the wind. If all goes well, this bird will spread those wings and fly sometime this fall.
John Nielsen, NPR News.
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