Written by By Brooke Sanderson, CNN
When zookeepers at the California condor nesting base awoke Monday, they expected four chicks to join the newly hatched group of condors.
Only one emerged.
Condors have successfully hatched inside of eggs at the Sacramento-area Folsom Condor Recovery Center (FCRC) before. The chicks remain there until they reach an estimated age of 5 — whether or not their parents choose to return.
“This is rare, but not unprecedented,” said Catherine Ingham, manager of the center. “We have been observing the nest and looking for signs of eggs leaving the shell since the summer.”
A video released Friday shows Sacramento’s local TV news affiliate catching a glimpse of the new condor.
“We expect this male will fare better than female condors in the wild and we’re hopeful that this male chick will go on to father more of our fledglings,” said Ingham.
A pair of California condors have hatched in captivity. Credit: Folsom Condor Recovery Center
The center’s birds traditionally leave the nest within three to six months, but new footage of the lone chick from Friday supports the theory that the male may have chick died. Ingham explained the condor mothers are very protective and would quickly move the new baby out of their way.
“Every death at this facility is heartbreaking for the entire team,” said co-founder and wildlife expert Mike Rethwisch, who is also a historian, conservationist and original midwife.
Female condors can reportedly lose more than 70% of their body weight in 6 months before giving birth — a brutal process that includes starving to death.
“Eggshells are very, very thin and often end up like Lego blocks,” said Ingham.
One of the lucky ones. Credit: Folsom Condor Recovery Center
Meanwhile, the team from the Folsom Condor Recovery Center will monitor the siblings at an outdoor nesting site until the middle of October.
“After this weekend, we’ll continue monitoring the nest in hopes of seeing the chick come out of the nest and start climbing on his own,” said Ingham.
San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gregor Janush
Condors are one of the world’s most endangered birds. In the 1970s, there were fewer than 500 condors left in North America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Folsom Condor Recovery Center is one of five aerial refuges, which house California condors and their partners.
The Cesar Chavez National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 190 California condors from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay area, according to the Texas Conservation Groups for Wildlife.
The San Francisco-area Golden Gate National Wildlife Refuge hosts 230 California condors. Credit: Gregor Janush
This month, the Center for Biological Diversity awarded California’s Folsom Condor Recovery Center the Maurice and Lana Gilbert Award for Accomplishment for their efforts to rehabilitate a captive California condor population in the United States.