California Condor - Photo Credit Don Graham
#17,443A month ago, in U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Statement: HPAI Confirmed As Cause Of Death For 3 California Condors, we looked at a preliminary report on the deaths of 3 Condors - and the investigation into additional deaths - in northern Arizona due to HPAI H5N1.
The good news - as of last Friday - is that the number deaths (n=21) has slowed since early April, and all of the infected birds have been found in Arizona. California, Utah, and Baja California (Mexico) have not reported similar cases.
The critically endangered California Condor nearly became extinct in the early 1980s, but made a modest recovery due to conservation efforts by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and breeding programs at San Diego's Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.
Today there are roughly 500 birds in captivity or in the wild, and H5 avian flu poses a genuine risk to the survival of the species. The latest update from the US Fish & Wildlife Service follows:
California Condor HPAI Response Update - May 5, 2023
May 5, 2023
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Incident Command Team, in collaboration with partner agencies, continues to monitor and respond to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), also known as bird flu, in the Southwest flock of California condors. As of May 5, all confirmed HPAI positive condors have been found in northern Arizona. Bird flu has not yet been confirmed in the condor populations in Utah (the Southwest flock spans the Arizona-Utah border), California or Baja California, Mexico. The Incident Command will provide updates in this format on a routine basis until further notice.
The Incident Command Team, partners and stakeholders are working to enhance supportive care facilities for sick birds, maintain sufficient support for field operations and monitoring, coordinate with USDA regarding potential vaccination of condors and develop long-term strategies for potential future HPAI outbreaks. Field teams have not collected a deceased or distressed condor in northern Arizona since April 11, 2023.
Status of HPAI in the Southwest Flock as of May 5, 2023
To ensure maximum transparency and until further notice, the Service will disclose and report all deceased condors in the Southwest flock found on or after March 30, 2023, prior to necropsy and preliminary testing. As results are confirmed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Service Laboratory, we will update their status as "confirmed HPAI."
Information updates are accessible at https://www.fws.gov/program/california-condor-recovery/southwest-california-condor-flock-hpai-information-updates-2023.
As we share these numbers, please note the number of deceased and confirmed HPAI positive birds may not match. The mortality count includes birds that are unrecoverable and will not undergo necropsy or testing for HPAI. Additionally, recovering birds confirmed positive for HPAI will be included in the “confirmed HPAI positive” category.
- Total mortality:21 condors (increase of one condor as a result of moving a bird from unknown to deceased, unrecoverable)
- Deceased and recoverable: 17 condors
- Deceased and unrecoverable: four condors
- Number of condors in care: four condors
Breeding pairs impacted:
- Total condors tested: 21 condors
- Confirmed HPAI positive: 15 condors including two of the rescued condors at Liberty Wildlife (four samples remain pending)
- Confirmed HPAI negative: two condors in care at Liberty Wildlife
- eight breeding pairs (13 individuals deceased)
Partners are caring for recovering birds, evaluating care and quarantine facilities, identifying where improvements are needed and continuing to refine safety procedures for field crews.
Rescued condors 757, 982, 1061 and 1108 in care at Liberty Wildlife continue to show signs of improvement. They are being tested for antibodies to determine if they develop some level of immunity to HPAI and partners will determine when it safe to release them back in the wild.
- Condor 982 was admitted with clinical signs consistent with possible bird flu. However, initial tests did not confirm the presence of the virus and subsequent testing using other laboratory techniques indicated this bird had been exposed to the virus.
- HPAI is no longer being detected in condors 757 and 1108 initially confirmed with the virus, indicating they are recovering.
- Condor 1061 was captured out of an abundance of caution after exhibiting lethargic behavior and has never tested positive for HPAI.
The Peregrine Fund continues to lead daily operations of monitoring and management of the flock throughout the range and at various known gathering sites including the release site on the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park are monitoring portions of the flock within their respective management areas and have offered additional support as needed. The Peregrine Fund continues to manage the flock to avoid congregation of birds through discontinuation of communal feeding sites and watering areas. We are evaluating when conditions will allow for condor releases to resume.
Access to terrain for monitoring activities is improving with snowmelt. The Peregrine Fund, with support from Arizona Game and Fish Department and National Park Service, will schedule flights as needed to monitor and track radio tagged condors. The most recent telemetry flight occurred on April 27; no new mortality signals were detected
Condor 409 has not been seen at her active nest in Zion National Park since March 16, and was last observed on March 26. Given that 409 disappeared when her nest was active and she has not been resighted or detected since March 26, her status is being moved from unknown to deceased and unrecoverable, following standard practices.Condor 982 was admitted with clinical signs consistent with possible bird flu. However, initial tests did not confirm the presence of the virus and subsequent testing using other laboratory techniques indicated this bird had been exposed to the virus.HPAI is no longer being detected in condors 757 and 1108 initially confirmed with the virus, indicating they are recovering.Condor 1061 was captured out of an abundance of caution after exhibiting lethargic behavior and has never tested positive for HPAI.