Catching a glimpse of a California condor was once a rare experience indeed; just a few decades ago, there were less than two dozen of the birds in existence. But now, thanks to efforts to preserve the condor at facilities like the San Diego Zoo, the largest species of bird in North America has made impressive strides towards survival -- and seeing them has just gotten a whole lot easier, too. Just as mating season heads into full swing in San Diego's captive condor breeding program, the zoo has installed a web cam for Internet users the world over to follow the majestic bird from the comfort of home. The sight of condor courtship, coupling, and chick-rearing has long been reserved only for biologists helping to bolster their numbers, but not anymore.
The video from the zoo, which can be viewed here, currently streams a wide view from inside the condors' enclosure, but officials say that once eggs have been laid, they'll move the focus to the nests. Around two months after that, if all goes well, there should be a brand new set of adorable condor chicks for the Internet to fawn over.
Of course, all of this interest into the private lives of condors isn't for mere entertainment. For years, the rare birds teetered on the brink of extinction, driven there by cattle ranchers who believed the birds were killing their livestock (when in reality they are scavengers). Since the early 1990s, however, after their population in California dipped to just 22 individuals, condors became the focus of an all-out effort on the part of biologists to save them, by breeding them in captivity and teaching them to be wary of humans before releasing them back into the wild.
So far, just 80 condors have since been released from breeding programs -- which means the San Diego Zoo's webcam won't just be capturing the wonders of nature, but the wonders of what can be accomplished when we work to save it.
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