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Bird Flu Is Killing Critically Endangered California Condors

Bird Flu Is Killing Critically Endangered California Condors

In the early 1980’s, there were less than 30 California condors. The virulent flu strain may be a set-back to their recovery from near extinction.

The last time I reported on the highly infectious and virulent bird flu killing wild birds and decimating poultry flocks, scientists warned that the disease was poised to become endemic in the US.

As the pathogen passes through wild birds, it kills off a species at the heart of conservation efforts for decades…the California condor.

At least 20 California condors have died of avian flu in recent weeks, and wildlife officials are preparing for the virus’ spread among the critically endangered birds. The highly contagious H5N1 bird flu that is killing North America’s biggest bird is the same strain that forced farmers to cull millions of chickens over the last year.

It is a major blow to the population of California condors (Gymnogyps californianus), which were pushed to the edge of extinction in the 1980s. Intensive breeding and habitat conservation efforts have since bolstered their numbers to around 500 birds, around 300 of which live in the wild. Clusters of the giant vultures can now be found from western Canada down to northern Mexico.

In recent weeks, the US Fish and Wildlife Service had confirmed at least 20 condor deaths in a flock located around Arizona and Utah. So far, 10 of the condors in that flock have tested positive for avian flu and the 10 remaining birds are currently undergoing examination. The deaths represent a 7 per cent loss of the species’ wild population.

This is a troubling development for a truly magnificent species. In the early 1980’s, there were less than 30 California condors.

To prevent extinction, scientists captured the remaining birds in 1987 to breed in zoos. The birds were later reintroduced to the wild in sanctuaries and national parks. By 2020, the population had grown to 504 birds.

The infected birds were part of a population that moves between northern Arizona and southern Utah, including Grand Canyon National Park, according to the Park Service. Officials expect exposure to the virus to rise during the condors’ migration north in the spring.

So far, the avian flu has not been detected in other condors in California or Mexico’s Baja California, the Park Service said.

I have spent many hours at the San Diego safari park observing our collection of condors. Here’s hoping that the vaccines being developed for the bird flu work as vaccines should and that California condors can continue their recovery from near extinction.


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El cóndor pasa

E Howard Hunt | May 2, 2023 at 7:56 am

This is terrible. Everybody knows that wind turbines are the sanctioned method of execution.

The Dems used the condors as an excuse to ban leas bullets.

    Edward in reply to ConradCA. | May 2, 2023 at 10:37 am

    Guess it is a good thing they didn’t cite sparrows and make it a nation-wide ban on the use of exposed lead bullets. Oops, shouldn’t give the Nazis ideas.

    alaskabob in reply to ConradCA. | May 2, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    The logic was that animals shot that weren’t harvested were fully consumed by the buzzards and ingested lead bullet fragments. Same logic was used to attempt to ban donation of hunted game to needy families. Well, humans don’t have a crop. Also, I still can’t figure out how most game taken had so much left over lead fragments available to the birds. But that’s Cali were the left never met a ban that they didn’t love… as long as they thought of it.

      alaskabob in reply to alaskabob. | May 2, 2023 at 5:41 pm

      Looking at the bullet in the TV new piece. That is a non-jacketed pistol bullet. Not the average bullet used in hunting. Odd example of a reason to ban bullets.

On a site which regularly reports that various sectors of our government are lying about subjects of any and every category, this particular story is uncritically accepted as true. Fascinating.

Serves those MAGA birds right for not wearing masks, maintaining social distancing while feeding on corpses, and not being vaccinated eight or more times. /s

The_Mew_Cat | May 2, 2023 at 12:44 pm

I expect some version of Bird Flu will become human transmissible, either through natural processes, or GOF research, and that will be the next emergency for the 2024 election. This means COVID-19 was a dry run. The next one is for real.

BierceAmbrose | May 2, 2023 at 2:56 pm

Hey, BF can’t do that; killing protected raptors en masse is environmemtalists’ job.

It would be sort of sad to see these majestic (not pretty) birds go the way of the Dodo. But maybe their DNA can be saved so that at some time in the future they can be reconstituted from vultures. Along with Deinonychus.

Condor, Condor, where are you?
If the windmill don’t get you,
Then you’ll fall victim to the bird flu.