Friday, July 28, 2023

North Coast Condor Flock Spreads Its Wings

Posted By on Fri, Jul 28, 2023 at 1:04 PM

click to enlarge A2 and A3, the first two condors to take flight locally in more than 100 years, interact after A3 returns to the enclosure site after a two-week absence. - YUROK TRIBE FACEBOOK
  • Yurok Tribe Facebook
  • A2 and A3, the first two condors to take flight locally in more than 100 years, interact after A3 returns to the enclosure site after a two-week absence.
Humboldt County’s eight California condors are branching out, venturing for an overnight stay on the Yurok Reservation near Blue Creek earlier this week, marking their first exploration of the lower Klamath River.

A little more than a year has passed since the first two of the endangered birds with a nearly 10-foot wingspan, known to the Yurok Tribe as prey-go-neesh, took flight into Humboldt County skies for the first time in more than a century.

Since that day in May of 2022, six additional condors have joined the flock now flying free as part of the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, a partnership between the Yurok Tribe and Redwood National and State Parks.

“Though some of the condors have visited the reservation in the past, for short periods of time, this is the first instance of birds roosting overnight on tribal lands near the river,” a social media post by the tribe states, noting where the birds were was about 20 miles from the release site in the Bald Hills area. “Though 20 miles may not seem far for a species that can fly as many as 200 miles in a day, this is a significant distance for these young birds who are still learning their new home, and without the benefit of an older established population to show them the way. As large soaring birds, condors are reliant on high winds created by mountains, river corridors, and coastal areas to maneuver across the landscape. Yurok and surrounding territories are ideal in this respect, as our complex topography provides ample condor ‘highways.’”

According to the post, the condors — which are tracked using transmitters attached to their wings — have also traveled as far south as Kneeland and as far north as the Klamath River near Weitchpec.
click to enlarge Condors A3 and A2. - COURTESY OF THE YUROK TRIBE
  • Courtesy of the Yurok Tribe
  • Condors A3 and A2.

“As the condors soar over new landscapes, they are constantly searching for food and good roosting opportunities, and becoming more familiar with wind and weather patterns within their range,” the post states. “When the birds reach breeding age, at about 5 or 6 years, these exploratory flights will also reveal potential nesting locations.”

With the flock now ranging from 2-to-3-years-old, that’s still a few years down the road and, as NCCRP manager Chris West explained to the Journal last year, without any adult condors around to show them the ropes, it might take these birds a bit of time to figure out the logistics of mating, something that’s he said has been observed at other new release sites.

Eventually, though, nature finds a way and one pair or more will connect the dots and the others will follow suit, West said.

Later this year, according to the tribe, the restoration program plans to release another cohort of condors, which will continue every year for at least 20 years.

Held sacred by many Indigenous tribes, in Yurok tradition the condor is believed to be among the Earth's first creatures and the one who carries their prays to the Creator.

“The primary goal of the Yurok Tribe-initiated condor restoration effort is to establish a self-sustaining prey-go-neesh population in the heart of the bird’s former range,” the post states.

To learn more about the Yurok Tribe’s Condor reintroduction initiative, visit
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Kimberly Wear

Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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