Photo courtesy of The National Aviary
One of the two new condors gets used to its new surroundings.

By Alyse Horn

Outside The National Aviary, dog walkers may have noticed a change in the Condor Court.

Lianni, a popular female condor at the aviary, was moved inside to make room for a new pair of condors, Lurch and Precious, who were officially welcomed to the family on December 2.

“This is an exciting [time],”said Kurt Hundgen, Director of Animal Collections at the National Aviary. “While Andean Condors are popular and charismatic birds because of their impressive size and unique appearance, they are also an important species from an animal management standpoint.”

Before being released into the outdoor Condor Court, Lurch and Precious were quarantined for two month to ensure health and a good transition into the new surroundings. Both birds are from zoos in Texas, so they settled in quite easily at the aviary, Hundgen said.

Hundgen said the condors are one of the few birds at the aviary that have the capability to be very aggressive and hurt the keepers, but the birds are already very comfortable being around people.

“With some birds we put out front we have issues with the dogs [that pass by], but these birds aren’t phased at all,” Hundgen said.

Hundgen said the next step is to get the two birds to bond and reproduce. He is optimistic, because both are proven breeders at their previous zoos.

If Lurch and Precious happen to not get along, Hundgen said the aviary is fortunate to have Lianni as a possible match for Lurch. The aviary is also looking forward to adding another male condor to the exhibit in January.

“Having two pairs will really work for us, because if a pair isn’t pair bonding you can mix and match. So far what we’ve seen has been good,” Hundgen said.

The possibility of breeding condors is a very exciting idea for the aviary. There are currently 71 Andean Condors living in 36 institutions nationwide, and last year those 71 produced just one chick.

The aviary has previous experience breeding condors, hatching offspring in 2003, 2007 and 2009. The first two hatchlings were released into the wild, while the third was sent to the Cincinnati Zoo.

Lurch and Precious are both condors who were caught in the wild; therefore there exact birth dates are unknown. Lurch is estimated to be about 43 and Precious about 36.

In the wild, condors are known to life 40 to 50 years, but in captivity their lifetime can be extended to 70.

Andean Condors are among the largest flying birds in the world, with a wing span of over 10 feet and a body mass of 20 to 25 pounds.

Hundgen said The National Aviary is interested in making the condor one of its high priority species, and will hopefully be able to upgrade the Condor Courts next year. Currently the project is in the designing phase and the aviary is looking for financial support to help back the project.