First Ever California Condor Cam Offers Rare Chance To See The Endangered Vulture In The Wild

By Josh Lieberman on October 23, 2013 1:51 PM EDT

california condor
The California Condor cam went live on Monday, the first camera to ever livestream images of the rare vulture. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

If you're still reeling from the Panda Cam Outage of 2013, there's a new animal camera in town: the California Condor cam. Though condors are slightly less cuddly than pandas -- they're flesh-eating vultures, after all -- the California Condor cam showcases a similarly rare animal, as only 435 California Condors are believed to exist. The cam went live on Monday from the Los Padres National Forest of Monterey County Sur region of California, installed there by the Oakland Zoo and Ventana Wildlife Society.  

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"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," said Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society. "Over the weekend when we were testing it, we had 25 condors in front of the camera." 

That's a pretty good turnout considering that the creature is rarely seen in the wild (of the 435 living California Condors, half are in captivity).

A note below the condor cam warns viewers that the video may contain graphic images. Biologists put stillborn calves at the site several times a week, which may be a bit gruesome for children to see. Observing the condors while they are relatively still during feeding is one of the most useful things about the condor cam. By focusing on individual condors as they feed (the birds are tagged) scientists hope to determine whether the creatures appear to be suffering from lead poisoning. California Condors sometimes feed on dead animals shot by hunters and ranchers, which can lead to the ingestion of lead. In 2010, in one of the worst cases, the first breeding male in over 100 years to live at Pinnacles National Park in Central California died from lead poisoning, which was "a huge loss" for conversation efforts there.   

The Condor cam is located in an incredibly remote area, but with a live video feed scientists won't have to worry about making the long journey to perform direct observations. 

"We have to drive one-and-a-half hours up a dirt road behind five locked gates just to get to this place," Sorenson told the San Jose Mercury News. "It's an all-day thing. So this is an amazing tool for us to help monitor condors in the wild."

Getting the condor cam set up in the middle of nowhere was something of a logistical struggle, too. It took a year to figure out how to rig the solar-powered condor cam up and connect it to the internet. FedEx is funding the project. 

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has a distribution map showing where California Condors have been observed.  

READ MORE:

The Goblin Shark, A Terrifying Deep-Sea Creature, Has To Be Seen To Be Believed [VIDEO]

Saber-Toothed Whale, Extremely Rare Creature, Washes Ashore In Venice Beach, Calif.

Rare Giant Oarfish Discovered By Calif. Snorkeler: 18-Footer Is 'Discovery Of A Lifetime'

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