Weighing close to 20 pounds with a wing-span greater than nine feet, California condors are large and powerful birds. It took a team effort to secure them for their routine physical examinations this week.
Two keepers held each bird and a third helped with their feet and wings as needed. While it may look uncomfortable to the birds, keeper staff take great care in securing the bird around the jaw (not the throat) to prevent injury to both staff and the animals. Condors are amazingly strong and flexible so if the head is not controlled, it could easily turn and take a large chunk out of someone!
Just like a physical you get at your doctor’s office, veterinarians checked their hearts and lungs, looked at their eyes, ears and feet, assessed their body condition (too fat, too thin, just right), recorded their weight and drew blood for routine testing. In addition to the routine check–up, both birds were vaccinated against West Nile Virus which can be transmitted by mosquito bites and fatal to birds.
Once the exams were done, the birds were released back into their habitat. Although the keepers were exhausted from the effort, the condors were fine and eagerly ate their breakfast not long after as if nothing happened!