Condors at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge 

By Dessi Sieburth

Nick Freeman organized the Los Angeles Audubon field trip to Hopper Mountain NWR on September 13, 2014. This location provides roosting, breeding and foraging habitat for the endangered California Condor. Dan Tappe, a biologist from the Refuge led us to the hotspots of the Refuge. He pointed out to us that micro trash is a big thread to Condors as the Condor parents feed trash to their chicks which leads to injury and death. At the observation point we met Leah, an intern biologist who used her radio tracker to find the Condors. It did not take long before we spotted a big bird soaring in the sky! Everybody was excited when not only one but five free condors soared in the sky. After this amazing sighting Dan led us to the condor cages, which are used for weighting, measuring, and replacing the wing transmitter on the condor. I wanted to know more about condors and prepared some questions for the biologist. Here is my interview with Leah:

RadioTracker-Leah byDessiSieburth WEB

Interview-Leah-Beatrix Schwarz

IMAGES: Intern Biologist Leah, with radio tracker and being interviewed by Dessi.

Q: The California Condor is still endangered. Is there anything we can do to help?
A: Don’t throw small pieces of trash, and use non-lead ammunition when hunting.

Q: Have you seen an increase or decrease in the condor numbers at Hopper Mountain?
A: Their populations are steady at Hopper Mountain.

Q: Overall, are the condors increasing and expanding their range? Why?
A: They are increasing and expanding their range overall, mostly because of habitat creation, captivity programs, and the ban of lead ammunition.

Q: How do you think the condor’s future looks?
A: It looks OK. If lead ammunition is stopped completely soon, it looks pretty bright. AB 711 which prohibits lead ammunition will take full effect in 2016. 

Condors Hopper Mountain, Photo by Jen Murphy

IMAGE: Condors Hopper Mountain, Photo by Jen Murphy

This trip was very special to me as I got to see California Condors in the wild. Thanks to Nick Freeman for organizing this amazing fieldtrip and thanks to the Biologists of Hopper Mountain for teaching us about condors!

Published Western Tanager Nov/Dec 2014 Vol. 81 No. 2