This year, we are celebrating California condor 326’s 10th birthday! Hatched near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge on April 9th, 2004, he was the first condor chick to fledge from a wild nest in California since the inception of the reintroduction program. The California Condor Recovery Program started releasing captive bred condors in 1992.
Condor 326 is the first offspring of condors 107 (male) and 161 (female). Paired since 2004, condors 107 and 161 have successfully reared and fledged many chicks; living siblings of 326 include 509, 616, and 694. Currently a bachelor, 326 has had a string of bad luck keeping a mate.
In 2011, he nested with mate 364 in a very difficult to access cavity near the west fork of Sespe Creek. Unfortunately, in April of 2011, 364 died as a result of suspected golden eagle trauma while 326 was still tending to their egg. By the time biologists were able to find and access their nest cavity, the egg was discovered to be unviable. It was either infertile or died at some point during its development.
After the loss of 364, 326 paired up with fellow wild-fledged California condor 428. Although 326 and 428 never nested together, up until the time of 428’s death they could be observed flying, foraging, and roosting together. In September 2013, the Recovery Program was devastated by the loss of six year old condor 428. When 428 was a young bird, GPS data gave us a small glimpse into her exploration of new horizons, long flights, and eventual selection of a breeding territory with 326. Condor 428 will always be remembered for showing us that given the opportunity, condors can thrive in the wilderness. Her untimely death was a result of lead poisoning which unfortunately also took the lives of many California condors before her.
In 2004, condor 326 gave new hope and inspiration to the many biologists, keepers, interns, and condor enthusiasts tirelessly working recover this remarkable species. Today, a decade after his hatch, he soars our southern California sky with 18 other wild-fledged condors!