Bird Cams eNews: From Condors To Hummingbirds, One Size Fits All

Watch biologists enter a condor nest and conduct a health check.
Go behind the scenes as biologists rappel into the Hutton’s Bowl condor nest and conduct a health check on the 4-month-old chick.

Biologists Enter Condor Cave For Check Up

The Hutton’s Bowl California Condor nestling (#923) reached an important milestone this month—120 days old—which means it was time for biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Barbara Zoo to conduct a 4-month health check on the wild chick! Tag along as they rappel down into the condor’s nest cavity, conduct the health check, attach the chicks first wing tag, and comb the nest for dangerous microtrash.

What’s so special about this 4-month milestone? According to biologists, it’s the ideal window in the nestling period for a nest entry. At this stage, chicks are still too young to fly away, but their bone structure has grown to the size of an adult bird. This means the chick is at a low risk of fledgling prematurely, and it has reached a size where biologists can attach a numbered tag and transmitter—valuable tools that will help them track the bird after fledgling—to the chick’s full-sized wing.

These nest entries have played a vital role in increasing condor nest success in the wild Southern California population. In fact, they are just one part of a larger nest management effort called “nest guarding” led by the California Condor Recovery Program (read about it here) that works to ensure that more wild condors fledge successfully—and it’s working! Since the program was established in 2007, condor nesting success has increased nearly tenfold in Southern California. Here’s hoping that #923 is the next wild condor to join the flock. Watch cam.

Watch an Osprey fledge the nest.
Osprey chick, Lele, gears up to take its first flight in Hellgate Canyon.

Hellgate Osprey Chick Makes First Flight

After an extra long nestling period, Hellgate Osprey cam star “Lele” finally took wing over the grounds near its nest site along the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Montana. The young Osprey fledged on the morning of August 5, a full 62 days after hatching, making it the oldest Osprey nestling ever to be featured on the Hellgate Osprey cam by four days!

Now the real work begins for Lele. The race is on to hone those ever-important flying skills and learn how to fish. We’ve already witnessed the fledgling make some impressive flightsaround Hellgate Canyon, and Lele’s dad, Louis, has been up to the task of providing for food the young flier. Young Ospreys in northern, migratory populations—like those in Montana—are dependent on parental feedings (typically from the male) for at least 10–20 days. Despite this assistance, fall migration is looming, and like all Ospreys, Lele will embark on the long flight south alone. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as the fledgling attempts to transform into an adept fisher bird. Watch cam.

While this first flight was a large step in Lele’s transition into adulthood, it was also a milestone for Louis and Iris. It marks the first time the Ospreys have successfully raised offspring together since they paired up three seasons ago. Iris and her previous mate Stanley were successful in three out of four nesting attempts on camera between 2012 and 2015 before Stanley’s disappearance in 2016 opened the door for Louis’s arrival. We’ve witnessed first hand that the breeding season is a tumultuous time for wild birds, but were hoping this is a positive sign for the future of this Osprey pair!

Watch a rare visit from a Blue-throated Hummingbird in West Texas.
Blue-throated Hummingbirds are the largest hummingbirds found north of Mexico, and they are rare visitors to the West Texas cam site.

West Texas Feeder Ripe With Rare Visitors

With 300–500 hummingbirds visiting the West Texas hummingbird cam site at any given time, there’s been plenty of opportunities to see rare and interesting hummers at the feeder! In addition to the return of the radiant Rufous Hummingbirds, some less common visitors have also been dipping their bills in recent weeks, including pit stops from the largest hummingbird to visit the U.S. (Blue-throated Hummingbird) and North America’s smallest breeding bird (Calliope Hummingbird)! Watch cam.

Hungry Hybrids: In places where species’ breeding ranges overlap, it is well-documented that they will sometimes interbreed and create hybrid offspring, and we’ve got the footage to prove it! Hybrid hummingbirds are some of our favorite visitors because they offer new challenges to identification.Check out these recent visits from a male hybrid Broad-tailed x Lucifer Hummingbird and a male hybrid Black-chinned x Lucifer Hummingbird.  Can you spot some features of each species in these individuals?

Who’s #1?: Is there one hummingbird species that makes your jaw drop to the floor every time it buzzes into view? Well, we want to know about it! Enter the Favorite Hummer Contest to share your which on-cam species is your favorite and why. We’ll randomly draw four winners from all of the participants to receive a brand new hummingbird feeder from our generous cam sponsor, Perky-Pet®.


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