There are fewer than 400 California condors in existence, and for decades, the only people who could witness the incubation of the species’ egg and the birth of a chick were zookeepers and field biologists, but that’s all changed with San Diego Zoo’s new webcam.
The Condor Cam allows people from around the world to watch as Sisquoc and Shatash incubate a 250-gram egg, turning it gently with their beaks and squabbling over who gets to nestle atop it.
"For decades we've had the opportunity to work with this remarkable species behind the scenes," said Michael Mace, San Diego Zoo Safari Park curator of birds. "Beginning today, this rare experience is no longer for a select few. We invite you to watch, for the first time, this fantastic experience, the beginning cycle of a California condor's life, from the egg until it fledges."
The female condor, Shatash, laid the egg on Jan. 13, but the egg was moved to an incubator for safekeeping, which is standard practice at the zoo. Zookeepers removed the egg when the condors were away from the nest and replaced it with an artificial egg for the parents to incubate. Even though the egg isn't real, the birds’ behavior continues just as it would if it were their own egg. During the last few days of incubation, the real egg will be returned to Sisquoc and Shatash, allowing them to help the chick hatch and immediately assume their parental duties.
Sisquoc and Shatash's chick is expected to hatch in early March after 52 to 54 days of incubation, and Condor Cam viewers can witness the historic moment and watch as Sisquoc and Shatash help bring a new California condor into the world.
The California Condor Recovery Program has helped increase the condor population by occasionally using a method called "double clutching." During the breeding season, if a female condor loses an egg, she will lay a second egg. This behavior allows California condors to be raised in two ways — the new egg by the birds and the first egg by zookeepers or biologists, with the help of a condor puppet. To learn more about the incubation process and the California Condor Recovery Program watch the below.