California Condor at The Raptor Center

Okay, today was supposed to be an entry of the doins that transpired at the Rio Grande Valley Bird Fest but is pre-empted for some exciting news at The Raptor Center--they are caring for an injured California Condor! This is the first time one has been at TRC and more than likely the first time a California Condor has been in the state of Minnesota.

The bird is a wild hatch 18 month old (still an immature) condor from Arizona. It has a wrist injury from ten days ago that is healing nicely and the chanced of the bird returning to the wild and its family group are very good at the moment. It is believed the injury is from a "forced landing". The bird was in the air and lost a thermal or another possibility is that it was forced from the sky by a golden eagle. It was brought to TRC because it is the premier facility for this type of bone injury in birds and Dr. Pat Redig (one of the founders of TRC) is involved with the Peregrine Fund which is helping to reintroduce California Condors to the wild.

Never in my life did I think I would get within six inches of a California Condor! I even got to smell it--the bird had that good vulture smell. You wouldn't believe the paparazzi there for this bird: KSTP, KARE 11, and the Pioneer Press--as well as dozens of TRC volunteers hoping to get a peek. I took over 130 photos myself. All the volunteers at TRC are on very strict rules regarding our 20 pound patient. Because condors are so impressionable at this age, extra precautions are being taken to keep it from habituating to people. We are not allowed down the corridor where the bird is resting and when it is brought out for check ups and meds, lights are down and the condor's head is covered until it is under anesthesia.

If you would like to see this bird, you can head to The Raptor Center and watch the Condor Cam set up in the lobby. A camera has been placed insides the room housing the bird so its progress can be monitored. NO ONE IS ALLOWED DOWN TO SEE THE CONDOR IN THE CLINIC--not even me. So please feel free to drop by and view the camera but don't expect the bird in clinic. We had fun watching the bird on camera this morning, playing with its toys and preening. It's so cool to know that you are in the same room as one of these dinosaur looking bird celebrities.

As always, this bird came in with no health insurance and its care is costing about $100 per day. Donations are always welcome and needed at The Raptor Center.

Getting to start my Tuesday morning up close and personal with a California Condor totally makes up for my luggage getting lost yesterday! Below are some gratuitous condor photos. If the bird looks weird it's because it was under anesthesia the whole time during the examination.

Young condors have black heads not the reddish pink you see on adult condors. It so looks like a dinosaur in the face.

Condor Paparazzi! We never allow this many people in clinic when we are working on a bird. However, since the condor was asleep the whole time and several vets were on hand, media and volunteers got a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the condor up close. One of the may reasons why I love volunteering with TRC, you never know what bird will be on hand to help.
This is Dr. Juli Ponder. I got to know her when I managed the Minnetonka All Seasons Wild Bird Store and she was a customer. She's now the associate director at TRC. In this photo she is helping to exercise the condor's wing. The bird will not be test flown while in Minnesota so its important to keep the muscles in use to prevent atrophy.

Look at those tootsies!! Even though condors are not a raptor and do not use their feet to kill their food, the talons are pretty impressive. Why does TRC care for condors if they are not raptors? We will work on all types of birds with bone injuries, it's what the center is best known for. Some of the non-raptors that TRC has cared for include parrots, trumpeter swans and flamingoes.

Another wing shot. This birds wing span is eleven feet, the length of the primary feathers are the same length as my arm!

A TRC vet holds the condor's head up as it gradually comes out of the anesthesia. The bird is held upright to keep the air passages open and to be prepared when it comes to and begins to struggle. As soon as the eyes opened, the condor's head was covered and it was swiftly returned to its recovery room.