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First-ever condor cam now live in Big Sur; this ain't no panda cam

ScienceBiologyFedEx Corporation

The first California condor cam took flight in Big Sur Monday, allowing the public and scientists a glimpse of the endangered bird in the wild.

The solar-powered webcam, installed by the Oakland Zoo and Ventana Wildlife Society, is the first to monitor the largest North American land bird in the wild and will aid preservation efforts, according to the society.

But viewers beware. Listed below the live stream is a message for visitors: "Viewer discretion advised. May contain graphic feeding images." Several times a week biologists put stillborn calves out for the birds to feed on. A camera stream of tumbling panda cubs this is not.

"We put the camera right on top of one of the main feeding areas so we could zoom down and get identification of each individual," Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society,  told the San Jose Mercury News.

Scientists can use the camera to check in on birds, which are tagged, and look for medical issues, the society said. Located in a remote area of Big Sur, the live stream eliminates the three-hour round trip along a dirt road biologists previously drove to observe the animals. 

"It's an all-day thing. So this is an amazing tool for us to help monitor condors in the wild," Sorenson said.

Video footage can help scientists see how the birds are feeding, and whether they are suffering from  lead poisoning  from feeding on carcasses with bullets or pellets in them.

Funding for the project, which took nearly a year of troubleshooting with phone companies and local wireless support, was donated by FedEx, the society said. 

The last wild California condor was taken into captivity in 1987 to join the 26 other remaining birds. As a result of preservation efforts, there are now about 231 condors in the wild, according to the Ventana Wildlife Society.

Like the cameras streaming giant pandas from the  Washington, D.C.'s, National Zoo or sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the condor cam allows the public to catch a glimpse of the animals from the comfort of their home -- or office. Watch the  condor cam on on the group's website, www.ventanaws.org.

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Twitter: @Sam_Schaefer

Samantha.Schaefer@latimes.com

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