Historic Condor Chick Pecking Way Out of Egg

Times Staff Writer

Right on schedule, the first California condor chick conceived in captivity pecked a dime-sized circle of cracks in its egg Wednesday morning and could hatch as early as Friday, the San Diego Wild Animal Park reported.

Laid on March 3, the egg is the first conceived in captivity of the rarest bird in North America. Since 1975, federal and state wildlife officials and private groups have been working together to save the California condor from extinction. All 27 of the birds known to be in existence live in zoos in San Diego and Los Angeles.

The development moved the 24-hour hatching team from its passive mode of carefully watching the egg to an active one--tapping on the egg every two hours and playing a tape of nest-like vulture hisses and grunts to encourage the chick to do what comes naturally.

"What we're trying to do is provide a natural stimulus to the bird to assist it in hatching," said Tom Hanscom, spokesman for the park.

Chick Appears Healthy

The chick has settled into a rhythm of pecking and resting, punctuated by cheeps, and appears to be strong and healthy, said Bill Toone, curator of birds at the park.

If the chick doesn't hatch by itself by early Saturday morning, however, the team of two veterinarians, an animal technician, a reproductive specialist and two keepers will move in with forceps and tweezers to help. This is the most probable scenario, Toone said.

Past experience has shown that letting the chick peck at the egg for more than 72 hours after "pipping," when the first cracks appear, could overexert and kill it. All 14 other wild-laid California condor chicks hatched at the park had to be helped from their eggs.

So far, though, the process is going by the book for this historic condor chick, Toone said.

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