Look at these Vivacious Vultures
International Vulture Awareness Day (September 5) is a great reason to spotlight these charismatic birds and their important role in food webs around the world. By consuming carrion, vultures help control the spread of disease and recycle the remains of carcasses back into the ecosystem. The L.A. Zoo is home to five vulture species.
Two colorful king vultures are on exhibit in the South America section—a female next to the crested screamers and a male next to the anteater. Also in South America is the only Andean condor on exhibit, Leadbottom.
Hatched at the Zoo in 1983, Leadbottom had to be hand raised because he kept falling out of his nest—hence his name. After many years with the World of Birds Show, he developed some health issues and eventually retired to his current exhibit.
Two other Andean condors, KC and Sunshine, are now part of the Bird Show cast, as is a northern black vulture, Mort. Black vultures and turkey vultures are the most common vultures in North America. Both are large birds with wingspans of five to six feet, but that’s only about half the size of North America’s largest flying bird: the California condor.
The L.A. Zoo was one of the founding organizations in the California Condor Recovery Plan, and this remarkable species of New World vultures is still a cornerstone of the Zoo’s conservation work. Though no California condors are on exhibit, visitors can learn about their recovery in the California Condor Rescue Zone.
Cape vultures are the only Old World vultures in the Zoo’s bird collection. Though these magnificent birds are technically off exhibit, they can be glimpsed in their large flight cage behind Rainforest of the Americas, and two are training to become outreach animals.
Zoo staff was instrumental in setting up two wild condor cams. The Big Sur cam currently offers visitors a majestic view of a California condor chick at approximately five months old.
“This female condor chick was approximately 4 months old in mid-August and is expected to “fledge” or leave the nest to learn to fly, in October.” – Ventana Wildlife Society
On September 26, 2015, Condor Cliffs will host the 20th annual California condor release, where the public can watch three young condors take their first flight in Arizona.