San Diego

Renewing hope for the California condor, a pair of the rare birds consummated their elaborate courtship--the first known captive mating of the endangered species, officials at the San Diego Wild Animal Park said Thursday.

“This is big news. This is the first time that California condors have ever copulated in captivity,” said Bill Toone, curator of birds at the park, which is affiliated with the San Diego Zoo.

“That makes us feel very certain, though not absolutely positive, that we’re going to get an egg.”

The condor couple, who reside in a huge flight cage known as the “condorminium,” were identified as AC-4, a 7-year-old male bird captured in June, 1985, and UN-1, a female bird whose exact age is unknown. UN-1 was believed to be at least 7 years old when she was captured in August, 1985.


According to Toone, the two took a liking to each other early last year but “things kind of fizzled out” as far as breeding activity.

Their courtship, which involves extended strutting and dancing, resumed in earnest last November. In recent days, the birds’ courting behavior intensified, and on Thursday condor keepers witnessed their first mating. The two birds have mated regularly since then.

He said if an egg is produced by the union, it could be laid in early to mid-March. The egg would then be taken from its parents and placed in an artificial incubator until hatching.