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An Attractive Bird? : Captured Condor Passes Health Test; Mate to Be Picked

April 21, 1987|JANNY SCOTT | Times Staff Writer

A 7-year-old male California condor, which until Sunday was the last of its species in the wild, underwent an extensive physical examination at the San Diego Wild Animal Park on Monday and appears to be in good health, park officials said.

X-rays gave no indication that the giant bird had ingested lead shot or has any lead in its tissues--a problem that has plagued other condors. A blood sample was taken and will be analyzed for the presence of heavy metals or pesticides.

"He seems to be in exceptionally good shape and is an attractive bird, as condors go," said Martha Baker, public relations manager for the park. "He has very nice plumage. He's bright, alert, responsive and inquisitive. He was calm throughout the entire exam."

The bird, labeled Adult Condor 9, was captured by biologists Sunday morning in the foothills of Kern County. He is now part of the captive breeding program run by the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos, which includes the 27 remaining birds of the highly endangered species.

Baker said veterinarians drew 12 milliliters of blood Monday from the bird, which she said is average size and weighs 19 pounds. The blood will be analyzed at labs throughout the country, including the National Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Madison, Wis. The results are expected within several days.

Baker said the bird will spend the next two weeks in the program's quarantine pen. Keepers will be able to watch it closely, observe its feeding habits and check its fecal matter for parasites.

After that, the condor recovery team is expected to determine which female condor AC-9 will be paired with. Though the condor breeding season generally ends in April, the birds will probably be put together to see whether they might eventually mate.

"We've seen some promising courtship behavior between a pair here," Baker said Monday. "They did not produce any eggs this year, but we're confident they will next year."

There has been no successful breeding in captivity. All of the more than one dozen eggs that have been hatched at the Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo were fertilized in the wild and brought in for hatching.

On Monday, the newly captured condor was offered a choice of foods, Baker said. The offerings included a hind quarter of a stillborn Holstein calf, a dead rabbit and some dead baby chickens.

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