After two months of sitting on her egg and preparing her nest, a California condor mother nudged her newborn out of its egg in front of 1,000 people watching from the condor cam at 7:30 a.m. Monday.
Laying eyes on the chick for the first time, the new mom fluffed her feathers and sat herself back on top of her newborn to keep it warm.
The baby condor joins 430 of its kind around the world. The endangered species faced extinction in 1982, when only 22 California condors existed.
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"Any chick produced, any additional bird in the wild, is a success," said Joseph Brandt, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "With each attempt, the pairs get better at defending their nests."
He and his team of 10 at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County spent their weekly meeting on Monday morning watching the hatching.
The 22-year-old mom, officially named condor No. 111, met her mate, condor No. 509, in 2014. Their first attempt at raising a baby went awry when, at 4 months old, their firstborn died of suspected lead poisoning. Their second shot at parenthood this year also came to a tragic end when an unknown predator invaded the nest one night in March and ate their egg.
Eddie Owens, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service saved the condor parents from another heartbreak. As soon as the team realized the egg was missing, Owens grabbed his 70 pounds of climbing gear and rappelled to the nest in record time. He then planted a fake egg before No. 111 realized her baby was missing.
There, he also found the pieces of the missing egg's shell.
On Saturday, Owens replaced the dummy egg with one named LA216 that started hatching at the LA Zoo that day. Two days after the initial crack, the chick was born. It will be named later.
Though the chick is not related to its adopted mother and father, its parents are doing everything right so far, according to biologists. This is good news for preservationists who work to maintain condors' parenting instincts in the wild.
"It was fantastic to wake up this morning and get bombarded by emails and texts telling me to check the livestream," said Owens.
The newborn bird now has the chance to grow up in the wild.
Now that No. 111 and No. 509 are busy with their newborn, the Hopper Mountain team will monitor the family via livestream for 120 days, said Brandt. The chick will spend six months nesting, before taking its first flight with its parents.
Fans can watch mom and her mate take care of their baby chick on the Cornell Lab's livestream. The condor experts will take questions from Twitter and Facebook during a livestream at 10 a.m. on April 14.