Condors Return to the North Coast's Skies (with Video)

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The first two condors were released today, A3 and A2. - COURTESY OF THE YUROK TRIBE
  • Courtesy of the Yurok Tribe
  • The first two condors were released today, A3 and A2.
Just around 10:30 a.m. today, two young California condors made their first venture into the wild and the Northern California Condor Restoration Program took flight, bringing the bird known to the Yurok Tribe as prey-go-neesh back to the skies over their ancestral lands after more than a century of absence.

The moment culminates 15 years of planning, outreach and research by the Yurok Tribe, which is spearheading the program in partnership with the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and marks the critically endangered species' first release into the northern reaches of its former territory.

Yurok Wildlife Department Director Tiana Williams-Claussen teared up during a live stream of the event as she watched the two captive-raised birds spread their massive wings in the wide open for the very first time.
"I'm so deeply happy," she said, thanking the indivuals and agencies that have been a part of the effort and especially thanking the tribe's elders for realizing the cultural and ecological importance of bringing the sacred bird back to Yurok lands. "I'm so grateful for the day to have finally come."

A3, an almost 2-year-old male that made his way out first, has been nicknamed 
"Poy’-we-son," which the Yurok Tribe said translates to "the one who goes ahead, but also harks back to the traditional name for a headman of a village, who helps lead and guide the village in a good way."

He has shown dominate traits during his stay with the three other juvenile condors as the group spent the last several weeks socializing and picking up lifeskills from mentor bird No. 46, which is currently on loan to the Northern California restoration program.

Williams-Claussen says she expects Poy'-we-son to be a leader of the flock that will be expanded with new birds every year for the next 20 years or so, with the goal of building up a self-sustaining population that eventually makes its way into the Pacific Northwest.

Second to take flight was A2, nicknamed "Nes-kwe-chokw,’" which translates to “He returns” or “He arrives," which Williams-Claussen says "is representative of the historic moment we just underwent, and condors’ return, free-flying, to the Yurok and surrounding landscape."

She describes A2 as a "confident bird" that is "often seen jockeying with A3 in play" but also to establish his place in the flock's hierarchy, and "with the will to do well in the wild."

The other two — A1 and A0, the sole female  — are slated to be released at a later date, in part because A1 has a broken satellite transmitter that can't be repaired until June or so.

While Poy’-we-son and  Nes-kwe-chokw are free to soar on the thermals that they can ride for 100 miles without flapping a wing, the program's staff will continue to monitor the birds' movements via radio and satellite transmitters.

The three remaining condors in the heavily fortressed enclosure in Redwoods National and State Parks are expected to draw Poy’-we-son and  Nes-kwe-chokw
back to the hillside, where staff will continue to put out carrion for feedings in an open but fenced area adjacent to the wire-encased atrium, allowing the socializing to continue through the mesh as the highly interactive birds adapt to their new surroundings.

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