05 abril 2006

Big Sur, Redwoods, Birdies...

Wha's not to like?

For the first time in more than a century, a pair of California condors has been spotted nesting in a hollowed-out redwood tree in the Big Sur region of northern California.

The Ventana Wildlife Society of Salinas, California, issued this undated image of the birds' nest yesterday. The nonprofit group has been releasing captive-bred condors into the wild since 1997 and now monitors 38 of the birds living in the central part of the state. But this is the first recorded sighting of condors nesting in the northern region in the past hundred years.

"Although the view into the cavity is very limited, and we can't actually see the egg, we strongly suspect they have an egg based on their behavior at the nest site,'' Burnett, a society wildlife biologist, told the Associated Press.

The condor, North America's largest bird, has been listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1967. In the 1980s the bird came to the brink of extinction, with only one breeding pair remaining in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service therefore made the controversial decision to catch the remaining wild condors and start a captive-breeding program.

Over the past 20 years the recovery program has greatly increased the number of wild condors. But the released birds still face perils in the wild—power lines, lead poisoning, golden eagle attacks—that have held their numbers in check.

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