Welcome to Ventana Wildlife Society's Condor Sanctuary and Big Condor Nest Cams. The Condor Sanctuary is located two miles east of the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, California. The sanctuary is surrounded by pristine US Forest Service lands, which are visible in the background of the Sancturay Cam. Ventana Wildlife Society has been releasing captive-bred condors to Big Sur, California since 1997. We use live-streaming webcams to monitor Endangered California Condors at our sanctuary and, when possible, at active wild nests along the central California coast. Occasionally, still-born calf carcasses are provided to the condors as a clean (non-lead) food source to help reduce the threat of lead poisoning, the number one condor threat. Biologists use the cams as a tool to help monitor the flock and track nesting success. You will see the most condor action from late morning to early afternoon. Check out the frequently asked questions for more info on the cams. While viewing, you may get lucky and also see a variety of other species such as mountain lions, bobcats, black-tailed deer, golden or bald eagles, ravens, or bluebirds. A special thanks to Explore.org for sponsoring Condor Cam and to Pacific Gas & Electric Company for support in the field through their avian protection program.
HOW WILL I KNOW SOMETHING EXCITING IS HAPPENING ON THE CAMS?
The more you watch, the more likely you will not miss something exciting. However, we will often post updates on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages when exciting events are happening on the cams.
HOW DO THE CAMERAS HELP CONDORS?
Ventana Wildlife Society's biologists use these cameras as a field management tool to monitor the survival and health of wild condors. Throughout the day, we remotely move the camera view to areas of greatest activity and identify as many condors as we can. Data we record using the camera can be used for survival analyses that will help determine self-sustainability of the population. Also, the camera allows us to keep track of each individual more often than we could otherwise, and with less disturbance. By observing their natural behavior, we can identify early signs of an injury or illness, should they occur. This information helps us provide prompt treatment when needed.
During the nesting season, we activate one to two nest cams. The nest cam(s) provide biologists important data on reproductive success and allow viewers to follow the nest cycle from the time the egg is laid until the chick leaves the nest. However, in some instances condor nests do fail, like with many birds. This is unfortunate, but condor nests are wild and we do not have control over the outcome.
HOW DO I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT EACH CONDOR?
For more information about individual condors, visit My Condor.
WHY ARE THE CONDORS WEARING WING TAGS?
The color/number wing-mounted tags allow us to identify individual condors in the field (see Condor Spotter). In addition, all captive -reared condors that we release are fitted with wing-mounted radio and/or GPS transmitters, which biologists use to track movements in the wild. The timing of tagging for wild-reared chicks varies nest to nest and depends greatly on the accessibility of the nest. When feasible, we tag them in the nest before they fledge. When not, we wait until they leave the nest to tag them with the other condors at our trap site. So there are short periods of time when untagged chicks can be seen in the wild. The tags and transmitters are essential monitoring tools to our everyday condor work. We can study condor movement patterns and identify new places where they feed, roost, and nest. By learning where they feed, for example, we can identify sites where they might be exposed to lead (and where non-lead ammunition outreach efforts should focus). They also help us immensely in the unfortunate situation of needing to locate a deceased condor and determining how it may have died. We consider the use of these tags to be temporary; we envision a future self-sustaining condor population that will not require tags.
TELL ME ABOUT THE NESTING PARENTS-
These are two of the oldest condors in Big Sur (CA). The male is Condor #167, aka "Kingpin" (23 years old) and is the most dominant condor in the flock. His mate is #190, aka "Redwood Queen" (22 years old) because she was the first to be documented nesting in a coast redwood tree. First paired up in 2006, they are our most productive parents. They have nested 9 times and raised 8 chicks, 2020 marks their 10th nesting attempt!
WHAT'S THE NEST LIKE? WHAT KIND OF TREE IS IT?
The tree is a coast redwood, it's located in a very remote canyon on the Big Sur coast. Judging by the size of this one, it could be over 500 years old! At one point, a large cavity was formed, likely the result of a lighting strike and one or more subsequent wildfires burning it out. Accumulation of leaves and other material in the nest cavity created a natural floor and the perfect nursery for a condor chick! The inside of the nest cavity is approximately 4-5 feet wide. The cavity entrance is south-facing and about 60 feet above ground less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean. Redwood cavities like this one are the most common nest site used by condors in Big Sur. However, condors who nest inland, most commonly use caves on large rock formations and cliffs.
WHAT'S THE REPRODUCTIVE CYCLE FOR CONDORS?
Condor eggs are incubated almost constantly by both parents in alternating shifts over the course of two months until hatching. The pair switch off incubation duties every 3-5 days. Typically, condor eggs are laid in late January to early April and hatch from late March to early June. After hatching, both parents care for the chick, which grows rapidly to adult size in just 5 to 6 months. At this age, condor chicks are ready to "fledge", or take flight for the first time away from the nest. The parents continue caring for the chick for up to 12 more months. This time investment required for raising young is extraordinary in the bird world, and explains why condors are usually not able to nest every year.
HOW BIG IS THE EGG?
Condor Eggs weigh between 8-10 ounces (about 1/2 pound) and lose approximately 12-14% of their weight during 57-60 day incubation period. Condor eggs are pale green in color and are about the size of an avocado (4" long x 2.5" wide).
HOW BIG IS THE CHICK, WHY IS HEAD COLORATION DIFFERENT FROM PARENTS?
After hatching, chicks weigh about 8-10 ounces and can fit in the palm of an adult human hand. When they fledge, at 5–7 months in age, they weigh approximately 17-22 pounds and are about the same size as the adults. The head coloration on the chicks will remain mostly dark until 4-5 years in age. Head coloration will turn bright red/pink as they approach adulthood/breeding age at 6-8 years old.
HOW OFTEN IS THE CHICK FED?
It depends on the age of the chick. For the first few weeks, one of the parents will attend the chick constantly for protection, and will feed the chick multiple regurgitated meals each day. As the chick grows, they provide less frequent but larger meals. At that point, you might have to watch the cam for a while to catch a feeding visit by the parent. Condors might travel more than 150 miles to find food for their chicks, so there will be times when the chick is alone in the nest. But until the chick reaches full size, you can bet that at least one of the parents is nearby, even if not in the camera view.
WHAT DOES A CHICK FEEDING LOOK LIKE?
During feedings, also called "feeding bouts", the chick will flap its wings excitedly and then stick its beak into the open beak of the parent to receive a regurgitated meal. It will almost appear as if they are wrestling with their beaks, more like a "feeding bout".
WHERE IS PASQUALE?
Since leaving the redwood nest in 2018, Pasquale has continued to mature and is now a full-fledged member of the wild flock. He can be spotted on the Big Sur Coast or at Pinnacles National Park. He bears an orange wing tag with the number 14, so keep an eye out!
Condor Cam Highlights