Historic event: California condor takes flight from nest

A California condor chick has hatched in the wild, survived and
flown out of its nest at Pinnacles National Park for the first time since the 1890s, officials said Wednesday.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports the female bird, born in
April, is not the first chick to be born in the park. But it is the first to
survive long enough to leave the nest and begin its flight to adulthood.

"She is staying near the nest, doing lot of practice
flights," said Rachel Wolstenholme, condor program manager at Pinnacles.
"Her parents will help her learn how to fly and where to feed and how to
interact with the other wild birds out there."

Pinnacles is a 26,000-acre park in rural San Benito County about
80 miles south of San Jose.

Scientists say it's a success story for North America's largest
bird as it continues a slow but steady path from near extinction.

California condors once ranged from British Columbia to Mexico.
Habitat loss, hunting and lead poisoning from ingesting buckshot while feeding
on dead animals shot by farmers and hunters led to a massive population

In 1987, federal biologists captured all remaining wild condors
and began breeding them in zoos. The birds' offspring have been gradually released
back into the wild.

Things are now improving for the condor.

As of Dec. 31, there were 435 California condors living in zoos
and in the wild, an increase of nearly twentyfold over the past 30 years, the
newspaper reported.

Condors have successfully been born in the wild, and left the
nest, a process known as fledging, in California's Big Sur; Southern
California; Arizona; Utah and Baja Mexico. But until last week, it hadn't
happened at Pinnacles in 120 years. Park officials are keeping the location of the
nest a secret so visitors don't disturb the birds.