Endangered California condors are some of the most closely monitored creatures in the history of the animal kingdom.
Tens of millions of dollars and monumental human effort has gone into bringing the giant vultures back from the brink of extinction.
So it came as a huge surprise when biologists discovered that a pair of condors in the Big Sur flock sneaked off and mated – producing a healthy baby buzzard that they’ve been raising on the sly.
The 9-month old condor is already full grown. The San Francisco Chronicle says that means “the love birds rolled in the hay, made a nest, produced an egg, incubated it for 60 days and then raised the hatchling for six months without being detected by prying biologists.”
The parents – “Wild 1” and “Shadow” – apparently bred in a remote portion of the Ventana Wilderness. It’s the third offspring for Shadow, the male, and the first for Wild 1.
Condors are the largest birds in North America. There were fewer than 30 of the animals left when captive breeding started in the 1980s. There are now about 425 condors, including about 115 in the wild.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Ventana Wildlife Society all have more information about the condor recovery program.