Similarity to Divorcing Parents? Biologists Watch in Horror: Condors Destroy Precious Egg

Ventrua, CA (UPI)-The only California condor egg ever to have been laid this breeding season has destroyed by its parents, who knocked it off a ledge while fighting over which bird should take care of the rare egg.

A team of specialists trying to save the huge endangered birds watched in horror as the precious egg smashed on the rocks below the condors’ cave and was eaten by scavenging ravens.

“There was real musical chairs going on in the nest,” said the co-director of the program to save the huge vultures, which have wing spreads of up to twelve feet.

“One of them would sit down on the egg and the other would come in and try to push the first one off” he said. “They would jab each other in the face and really get physical.”

Biologists with the condor program’ which is operated jointly by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Audubon Society, said team members observed the pair during the past several weeks while they were engaged in courtship manoeuvres.

One member of the team saw the mother condor lay the egg, the only one known to have been produced this season.

The scientists were delighted because the addition of even one bird to the minuscule condor population – estimated at only 25 to 30 birds – would represent a significant improvement in the species’ chances for survival.

The birds had chosen a cave in the side of the steep cliff in the foothills surrounding Ventura for their nest.  But almost immediately, the parents began to battle over “incubation rights” to the egg.

At one point, the co-director of the program said the quarrelling became so furious that both birds took to the air and started squawking and flailing at each other with their wings and talons leaving the egg unattended.

“This went on for hours” he lamented “They were so absorbed no one was incubating.”

The scientists observed the fighting from a blind about a half-mile away, but there was nothing they could do to help settle the dispute. The bickering got worse and about a week ago, and’ as the parents were pushing and shoving inside the cave, the four-inch egg suddenly was knocked out of the nest toward the cave entrance’ It teetered on the lip of the cave’ then fell to a rock ledge below where its contents were rapidly devoured by the ravens.

The similarity between couples who become caught up in high-conflict behaviour and these condors is all too great.