Archive | April 2014

Condor Watch – the first two weeks

Hi everyone, we have had a great first two weeks!  We are already about 3% done with the classifications, have had over 100,000 page views and lots of great discussions about the photos and condors.

Some fun finds in the photos:

Black bears, mountain lions and bobcats!

And then of course condors, lots of condors!

We wanted everyone to know we are listening to the feedback from these first two weeks and are working on making the site more fun.  A few of the things we are working on:

1) The ravens!  We are aware that marking a photo with 20+ ravens is tiresome and we are making changes to the site to make this process quicker.

2) ‘Other’ option – we are working on a way to help guide how to mark other animals (such as black bears!) in the photos.  We are very interested in the different species that use the condor feeding stations.

3) The infamous ability to go back. We know that it is frustrating if you click the ‘all animals marked’ option but are not done and can’t go back – we are working on a way to fix this.

4) The mis IDs. A mis ID is when you put in a tag number but the condor bio comes up as unidentified or a bird that died before the photo was taken (nicknamed ‘zombie condors’): We (actually Vickie Bakker, our data matron extraordinaire) is spending an enormous amount of time checking those mis IDs that are reported and ferreting out why. We have fixed some of the major issues but please do continue to report the mis IDs you see so we can try and fix them all!  We have started a discussion board for people to post their mis-IDs, under “Science Board”, “The Objects” and titled: “Unknown’ Numbers -=- list ’em here – check if already listed”. Also, be assured that even though the ID might have come up “unknown” on the site, we can go back and cross reference this to be able to identify these birds for our research purposes. So, although it is not as satisfying for you, valuable data are still being generated.

So, we want to send a huge thank you to the Zooniverse community for participating in Condor Watch and know that we are working on sorting out these last few details to make this an even more fun and fabulous project!  We do monitor the discussion boards regularly so let us know what you think!

The Science Team

Get to know the stars of Condor Watch!

(no, not the ravens – although understandably they do seem to dominate some of the photos, the CONDORS!)


California Condors (scientific name Gymnogyps californianus) are New World Vultures and became extinct in the wild in the mid-1980’s. Luckily very devoted conservation efforts led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service have brought this magnificent bird back from the brink of extinction and today over there are over 400 condors in the world – with about half of the population in the wild (or as we call them ‘free-flying’). Captive- bred condors are released into the wild from release sites in Arizona, California, and Baja California Mexico. As of Jan 31st 2014, there was a worldwide population of 410 California condors, with 232 of these birds “free-flying” associated with the following release site locations: 128 in California, 75 in Arizona and 29 in Baja California Mexico.

Condor Watch currently only has photos from California, but we hope in the future to expand to photos from the Mexico and Arizona flocks as well! All free-flying condors are tagged with ID numbers (which is why we can give you a bio on each bird!) but they all should have (unless they lost it) also a radio transmitter and sometimes even a GPS transmitter so the condor biologists can track their movements on a near daily basis.

Condors are long-lived animals, with a lifespan believed to be upwards of 60-70 years! They form long-term relationships, and typically will stay with the same mate for life. They can only raise one chick per year, and normally start breeding at 6 to 8 years of age (when they achieve their full adult plumage and coloring). Condors do not build a nest per say but will lay an egg in a cave, on a cliff, rock crevice or even a hollowed out part of a tree – which makes it interesting for the condor biologists to check on the egg! Both parents care for the chick until fledgling, which is ~7 months after the egg is laid. After fledgling the chick is still dependent on its parents for several more months and sometimes you might even see a parent with its chick in one of the photos!

We think condors are great and we hope you do too. To answer some of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) we are seeing on the discussion boards we have started a FAQ page linked to this blog:


Welcome to Condor Watch!

Hi and thank you for participating in Condor Watch!  We are very excited about our project and hope you will be too.  California condors are one of the rarest birds on earth and through Condor Watch we hope you will get know our California flock.  We are going to analyze data that Condor Watch provides on which birds hang out together alongside all the data we have compiled on how often these birds are lead poisoned to see if we can identify social behaviors that might put a condor at greater risk for lead poisoning. In addition to the lead exposure question, we hope Condor Watch will more broadly increase our understanding of the flock’s social structure (we considered calling the site “Condor Facebook”) and how an individual bird’s place in the flock relates to its space use, breeding behavior, and exposure to other contaminants. Someone from the science team will be posting blogs and monitoring the discussion page regularly – so please let us know if you have questions about our project and do tag photos where you see something interesting.

Over the next few months, we will be posting blogs from each member of the Science Team so that you can get to know us a little better.  We are excited to have you join us – we hope you enjoy watching condors as much as we do!

The Science Team.