Santa Barbara Zoo - Condors Condor Country

Santa Barbara Zoo Condor Family Trees

By 1987, the world’s population of California condors totaled a mere 27 individual birds, some flying free and some in captivity.

Eggs, collected from the nests of wild condors, had been successfully hatched at breeding facilities beginning in 1983. But the birds living in the wild were dying at an alarming rate, the victims of what was determined to be lead poisoning, contracted by feeding on carcasses of wildlife killed by lead shot, and other factors.

After the death of the female of one of the last wild breeding pairs, the remaining wild condors were captured and placed in captive breeding facilities at Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park.

The current population, now topping 320 condors, are descendants of those few wild-born birds, as well as captive-raised condors who were collected, as eggs or nestlings, from the nests of wild condors who ultimately didn’t survive.

These “family trees” of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s four condors show the links to these wild-born condors. Many were given “AC” numbers (“adult condor”) or names by researchers. Now, researchers list the birds by numbers in the “Studbook,” a document that lists every condor studied or born since the Recovery Program began.

Three of the Zoo’s birds are related to that female condor, known as AC3 (studbook # 10), whose agonizing death spurred the ultimate capture of all the wild birds. She can be seen in a display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.




Photo credit: Sheri Horiszny