Rare condor chick hatches at Oregon zoo

A rare California condor chick pecked its way out of its egg at the Oregon Zoo’s captive breeding compound Monday, bringing the known number of the endangered species to 245. The chick’s foster mother wrapped the downy newborn in her soft breast feathers and delivered the first feeding of regurgitated raw meat.

It is the first chick this season for the zoo, which opened the nation’s fourth California condor captive breeding program in 2003. Two more eggs from different females are due to hatch in early May. Monday’s chick is about 4 inches long and an estimated 8 ounces to 9 ounces. Its sex is unknown.
The egg was laid Feb. 21 and moved to an incubator two weeks later. During a routine check Friday, keeper Shawn St. Michael saw evidence that the chick was ready to bust out because of the pattern of cracks in the shell. He moved it to a nest where another pair had been incubating a phony egg. Monday afternoon, Joe Burnett, assistant curator for condors, tossed fresh food into the enclosure, luring the female from the nest. He watched the chick pop the top off its shell “like a little lid,” Burnett said.

In the early 1980s the known California condor population had dropped to 22. The Oregon Zoo’s program is part of an effort to revive the species. In a recent contest, the zoo decided on a name for the chick: Tatoosh. In Yurok tribal legend, Tatoosh was the thunderbird that shook the mountains with its flapping wings. The two chicks produced in Oregon last year are in California. The male is to be set free this year at Pinnacles National Monument, south of San Jose. The female, who was to be released in Baja, Mexico, is recovering from tail injuries at the Los Angeles Zoo.

May 10, 2005

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