Thursday, July 17, 2008

California condors adapt to fire

Most of the 23 endangered California condors that were residing in the Big Sur area when the Basin and Indians fire began have been accounted for. Some of them were seen on the beach during the fire dining on a beached whale and a decaying California seal lion. Here is an excerpt from the MercuryNews.com:
Two rare California condor chicks have survived the Big Sur-based Basin Complex fire, enduring dense smoke but untouched by flames.

"We're ecstatic," said Kelly Sorenson of Ventana Wildlife Society, which monitors each bird along the vast central coast. "We're so incredibly relieved that two chicks survived."

The fate of the third remains unknown. Unlike the two survivors, who lived in coastal nests, the nest of the third chick was located in a more remote interior part of Ventana Wilderness Area, where the fire burned especially hot.

In a brief visit to one of the nests on Tuesday, wildlife biologist Joe Burnett found a chick "fat and happy in the cave. Mom and Dad have been keeping this chick full of food despite the disruption of the fire."

Among the rarest and most imperiled birds in the world, the chicks belonged to a small group of 23 wild condors in Big Sur. They are part of a reintroduction program administrated by the Ventana Wildlife Society. Only 151 wild condors remain in the world.

Because the young birds are only three months old - still covered in downy gray feathers yet already the size of chickens - they were too young to fly and escape the fire.

Sorenson and Burnett had hoped to rescue the birds ahead of the advancing fire, but were forced back by heat and smoke. For more than two weeks, they've been braced for bad news.

All but one of the older condors in the wilderness have been accounted for.

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