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People Dangling Off Cliff Flip Out When They Spot What's In This Nest

"It was just this feeling of overwhelming joy.”

Two very special residents of Zion National Park — a super rare California condor couple — were acting a little strange recently. 

California condor in Zion National Park
Zion National Park

Back in May, people observed the couple doing a little dance around a special crevice in a canyon wall. The male condor, known as 523, would fly up to this special spot and as soon as he landed, the female, 409, would stretch her wings and take off. 

This is what's called a "nest exchange." And that the couple was switching off nest duties so frequently suggested that their family had grown. 

"While incubating their egg, the condors would switch nest-sitting duties every 3 to 4 days but now they are switching almost every day," Zion National Park explained. "Recent behavior changes from these condors have given park biologists reason to believe the egg has hatched."

A new California condor chick would be a big deal for these birds. In the early 1980s, because of lead poisoning and other threats, the population of California condors dropped down to a population of just 22 — in the whole world. Thankfully, because so many people worked hard to save them, their population is back up to around 500.

But park biologists needed to make sure that they had a new chick to celebrate — they had to see the baby with their own eyes. In those canyons, that means basically dangling off the side of a cliff. So that's just what they did. 

California condor nest in Zion National Park
Zion National Park

The photo they captured while rappelling off the edge of a cliff in view of the nest confirmed that 409 and 523 were proud new parents of a fuzzy little condor chick.

California condor nest in Zion National Park
Zion National Park

“When we confirmed it … it was just this feeling of overwhelming joy,” Janice Stroud-Settles, a wildlife biologist at Zion, told The Guardian

California condor chick and parent
Another California condor and her chick, like the ones recently discovered in Zion National Park | Wikimedia Commons

Raising a little condor chick isn't easy, which is one reason why California condors have taken decades to come back.

"Although the chick will leave the nest and take [his or her] first flight at around 6 months of age, [he or she] still relies on its parents for food for as long as a year," Zion National Park wrote in a press release. "By that time parents will have missed the next breeding season, allowing only one offspring every two years at best."

California condor in Zion National Park
Zion National Park

To add to the joy of this new chick, scientists soon heard that another new chick had just hatched in the Grand Canyon

"We are so excited," Russ Norvell, avian conservation program coordinator at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said
“We have a long way to go," Chris Parish, director of conservation for the Peregrine Fund, added, "but today we celebrate." 

You can play a part in saving and protecting these amazing birds by making a donation to the Peregrine Fund