California Condor Population Rebounding After the Bird Species Nearly Went Extinct

According to the IUCN Red List, the species is still "critically endangered" but its population trend is increasing

California Condor sitting on a rock
California Condor. Photo: Weili Li/ Getty

Conservation efforts have paid off as the California condor population is slowly on the rise!

In 1982, only 22 were left in the wild, however, conservation officials were happy to announce that in May that number reached 1000 when a California condor chick hatched at Zion National Park in southwest Utah, CNN reported.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, the species is still “critically endangered” but its population trend is increasing.

Officials told CNN the successful hatching does not mean that the young condor will survive. The 1,000th chick’s mother previously hatched two other chicks that didn’t leave the nest. Researchers are hoping this hatchling will be the mother’s first to “fledge,” or successfully leave the nest.

California condor conservation efforts first began with a breeding program at the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Zoo in 1982, according to the Los Angeles Zoo. The zoos were successful enough that, 10 years after the program started, they reintroduced the birds to the wild.

The birds are primarily found in California, Arizona and Utah, and the main threat to their survival tends to be lead poisoning.

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Condors are scavenger birds, so they survive off animal remains. Often the remains California condors consume are from animals that have been shot by humans. The bullet fragments left behind in the carcasses can deposit lead levels so high they could kill a human, according to the National Park Service.

As of July 1, 2019, California banned the use of lead ammunition after the bill was first introduced in 2013, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife shared.

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