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Rare Andean Condor Chick Hatches at National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Andean Condor 2

The Andean Condor has the special honor of serving as the national bird for a number of South American countries in the region of the Andes mountains which this exceptional raptor calls home. It is no surprise, then, that as numbers of these massive birds have declined, international efforts have sprung up with the aim of protecting, preserving, captive breeding, and reintroducing Andean Condors in order to restore and nurture their endangered populations.

In Pennsylvania, one of these programs has born fruit in the form of a brand new baby condor. Hatched on June 7th, 2022, this young female hatchling is one of three Andean Condor chicks to hatch in North American zoos this year.

Residing in a nest cave within the aviary’s “Condor Court” habitat, the new hatchling represents a triumph of conservation efforts involving zoos and conservation groups around the globe.

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One of the many threats to Andean Condor populations is the fact that they breed quite slowly. Condor pairs lay only one egg every other year. Their offspring take two entire months to incubate and are not ready to leave their parents’ care for a year or more after hatching. Even once a chick has fledged, young Andean Condors are not fully grown adults until they reach six years of age. This means that Andean Condor chicks are incredibly vulnerable for a much longer stretch of their lives than most birds. Furthermore, when young Andean Condors die before reaching adulthood, their parents have usually invested many months or years into their offspring. Starting over costs energy and time which this endangered species often does not have.

The Andean Condor is an incredible bird. These titans have the largest wingspan of any raptor at just under eleven feet. Recognizable for their feathered collars, male Andean Condors have a number of traits which differ from females of their species. One of these, an ornamental comb or “caruncle,” has been used to determine the sex of National Aviary’s new hatchling. Because the chick lacks this feature, she is believed to be female.

Proud parents Lianni and Lurch are currently caring for the new addition within the naturalistic habitat which the aviary has built to encourage them to breed. Evidently this encouragement has succeeded and 38-year-old Lianni is reportedly fulfilling her parental duties admirably. Because young raptors are so delicate, Lianni will continue to care for the chick with minimal interference from human handlers until it has grown enough to emerge from the nest cave.

The Andean Condor species is one that will likely continue to decline without serious intervention. Moments like this one, however, remind us that conservation is not all bad news. This chick, and the many other captively bred endangered animals contributed by zoos worldwide represent the hope of this planet and the species which we have come far too close to losing.

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