The endangered California condor returned to the skies over the redwood forests on the state’s northern coast for the first time in more than a century on Tuesday.
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Two captive-bred birds were released from a cage in Redwood National Park, about an hour south of the Oregon border, as part of a project aimed at returning the giant vultures to their historic Pacific habitat. northwest.
The two male condors were moved to the assembly area late in the morning and a remote-controlled gate was opened. After looking carefully at the opening for a few minutes, the birds stepped through the opening one by one, spread their gigantic wings and left.
“They just jumped up and flew off into the distance,” Tiana Williams-Claussen, wildlife director for the region’s Yurok tribe, said in a webcast.
Condors were last spotted in the park area around 1892, authorities said. The California condor is the largest native North American bird, with a wingspan of nearly 3 meters. The scavenger was once widespread, but had all but disappeared by the 1970s due to poaching, lead poisoning from eating animals shot by hunters, and the destruction of its habitat.
The birds can live for 60 years and fly great distances in search of carrion, so their range can extend to several states.
Federal and local fishing and wildlife organizations are involved in the recovery project led by the Yurok tribe, who traditionally consider the California condor a sacred animal and have been working for years to return the species to the tribe’s ancestral territory.
“For countless generations, the Yurok people have assumed the sacred responsibility of preserving balance in the natural world. The reintroduction of the condor is a true manifestation of our cultural commitment to restore and protect the planet for generations to come,” Tribe President Joseph L. James said in a statement.
Two more condors would later be released — after biologists determined that the two birds that took to the skies on Tuesday were displaying appropriate behavior, authorities said.
The condors, which include a female and three males, are between 2 and 4 years old. Two were hatched at the Oregon Zoo and two at the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho.
In the early 1980s, all 22 condors still alive in the wild were captured and put into captivity in a captive breeding program that began in 1992 with the release of the giant vultures into Los Padres National Forest in Southern California.
That herd has expanded its range, with other condors now occupying parts of the Central Coast of California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, Mexico. The total population now exceeds 500 birds in captivity and in the wild.
Two years ago, California condors were spotted for the first time in nearly 50 years in Sequoia National Park, in California’s Sierra Nevada.
That same year, however, a dozen adults and two chicks died when an arsonist wildfire devastated their territory on the coast of Big Sur.
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