It's a good thing I have two monitors for my computer. One of them is fully taken up with condors. I'm watching a live camera feed of a day-old California condor chick and its parents.
At first, it's soothing. There's dad, condor No. 509, sitting quietly, the chick hidden under his belly. I hear the calls of other birds from outside the nest. Then the action begins. Mom, condor No. 111, shows up to take over babysitting duties. Feathers ruffle, the massive birds interact. I see a glimpse of the small, fuzzy chick. This is better binge-watching than "Daredevil." And don't worry "Silicon Valley" fans, no technicians are trapped in a ravine here.
The live feed is a joint project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Santa Barbara Zoo and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs the California Condor Recovery Program. The cave on view is located at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in southern California.
Fish and Wildlife describes condors as "one of the most endangered species in the world." That means every chick is a precious resource in the fight to preserve the large birds.
The chick is actually adopted. Condors Nos. 111 and 509 created an egg together, but that egg went missing in March, most likely due to a predator. A biologist snuck into the nest and planted a fake egg to encourage the pair to keep up their incubating behaviors. The condors fell for it.
The reward was the replacement of the fake egg with a real egg from the Los Angeles Zoo in early April. That egg was near hatching and the baby emerged on Monday with its adoptive parents ready to care for it.
There are estimated to be about 230 condors living in the wild and about 410 total, including those in captivity. The birds can grow to have a wingspan of 9.5 feet (about 2.9 meters) and are the largest land birds in North America. In 1982, only 23 condors survived, so the current population numbers represent a significant increase due to the success of breeding programs.
Now you'll have to excuse me. Mom is feeding the chick and I need to give my full attention to the live feed.