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Two critically endangered California condors spotted near Zion National Park

The sighting of two rare critically endangered California Condor nests has been confirmed at Zion National Park in southwest Utah, an event that has wildlife experts celebrating.

It is the first time biologists have observed multiple condor nests in the same breeding season.  

The first nest confirmed by Zion National Park biologists is believed to have hatched around April 16 and is located near a popular hiking trail, Angel’s Landing.

This nest was active in 2019 when the young condor known as California Condor 1,000 successfully fledged, a stage between birth and when it is capable of flight.

It is in use again by the same pair of adult condors, a statement from The Peregrine Fund, a non-profit organization that specializes in conserving threatened and endangered birds said. 

Two critically endangered California Condor nests have been spotted at Zion National Park in southwest Utah

The first nest confirmed by Zion National Park biologists is believed to have hatched around April 16 and is located near a popular hiking trail, Angel's Landing.

The first nest confirmed by Zion National Park biologists is believed to have hatched around April 16 and is located near a popular hiking trail, Angel’s Landing.

The second nest was confirmed to have hatched around May 11 and is on Bureau of Land Management land, east of the national park

The second nest was confirmed to have hatched around May 11 and is on Bureau of Land Management land, east of the national park 

The new condor nestling is known as California Condor 1,111 and it is expected to fledge in mid-October. Once the bird is capable of flight, it will spend approximately two years with its parents before becoming fully independent.

‘We were happy to learn the breeding pair at Zion chose to nest again in the cave near Angels Landing since the location lends exceptional condor viewing opportunities and facilitates an outstanding learning experience for visitors,’ Janice Stroud-Settles, Wildlife Program Manager at Zion National Park, said.

‘The condor nestling was quickly confirmed thanks to the hard work of Zion’s dedicated condor volunteers, who watch the nest activity almost daily while simultaneously sharing their knowledge and passion about condors and the condor recovery effort with park visitors.’ 

The second nest was confirmed to have hatched around May 11 and is on Bureau of Land Management land, east of the national park, which attracts some 3.5 million visitors every year. 

‘This is the first nesting attempt for the adult female, studbook number 801, and we were surprised to see the pairing,’ the Peregrine Fund’s Condor Program Manager Tim Hauck said.

‘The female is only six years old, and while condors are capable of breeding at five to six years of age, on average they are not successful until they reach eight years of age.’

The six-year-old female condor from the Zion National Park pair is pictured perched atop a rock

The six-year-old female condor from the Zion National Park pair is pictured perched atop a rock

Biologists were also surprised that the male was a 10-year-old condor who was ‘single’ going into mating season, leading to some concern that he would not find a mate.

‘We were lucky that this pair nested in a place that had a good vantage point,’ said Hauck. ‘It can be really difficult to see inside a condor nest since they are typically in caves, high up on the side of cliffs. Fortunately, at this particular location, we had a good eye-level vantage point from which we could see into the nest and identify the nestling using our spotting scope.’

During the 1980s, the California Condor population fell to just 22, though the California Condor Recovery Program, enacted in 1979, helped stave the species from extinction.

In 1987, the last free-flying bird was captured and integrated into the captive breeding program.

Five years later, condors bred in captivity were released into the wild at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura, California, according to Audubon. 

As of this month, there are more than 100 condors in northern Arizona and southern Utah, and more than 500 around the world, figures that show the programs are working, officials said.

‘We are encouraged to see condors making use of the good nesting habitats here in southwest Utah, which just increases the chances for recovery success,’ said Keith Day, Wildlife Biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk