Feathered threesomes: California condors are found to form throuples with one female and two males to help with incubating and feeding chicks
- Condors is North America’s largest bird and is also an endangered species
- Parks in the US have created programs to help the population recover
- Officials started tagging them over the years and noticed they form throuples
- The ‘trio nesting’ typically includes two males and one female
- The opposite has also been observed where females take turns reproducing
Condors’ relationships are similar to that of humans – they form long-term bonds that sometimes end in divorce, but a new observation reveals they also join as throuples.
The instance was seen in birds living at the Pinnacles National Park in California when wildlife officials spotted three nesting together and raising chicks – the group is typically two males with one female.
There are currently three known condor threesomes at the park a, however officials note that they have just recently began tagging the birds and are now able to determine such groups.
‘It’s quite possible there were trios before,’ Pinnacles National Park’s condor program manager, Alacia Welch told Ashley Harrel with SF Gate, ‘but no one really noticed.’
‘If you have two condors in a nest, and then you see a third, you wouldn’t necessarily think it would be part of the nest. We presume they’d be nesting in pairs.’
Condors’ relationships are similar to that of humans – they form long-term bonds that sometimes end in divorce, but a new observation reveals they also join as throuples
The California condor is the largest North American land bird, with a wingspan of up to nine feet.
In the early 1980s, all 22 condors remaining in the wild were trapped and brought into a captive-breeding program that began releasing the giant vultures into Southern California’s Los Padres National Forest in 1992.
That flock has since been expanding its range while other condors now occupy parts of California’s Central Coast, Arizona, Utah and Baja California, Mexico.
There are more than 100 birds in central California, with the total wild population now about 340 birds – deeming it an endangered species.
The instance was seen in birds living at the Pinnacles National Park in California when wildlife officials spotted three nesting together and raising chicks – the group is typically two males with one female
Pinnacles National Park created its condor recovery program in 2003 and now has more than 80 birds in its care.
Officials at the program have identified three throuples: 566 (male), 711 (male) and 725 (female) are together, 204 (male), 470 (male) and 646 (female) have a relationship, along with the trio 692 (male), 726 (male) and 700 (female).
Welch told SF Gate that the common group is two males with one female, which may be due to the idea of too many eggs and not enough bodies to incubate them.
The method of having two males, allows for all three to incubate the same nest, along with the group have the resources to focus on one chick at a time.
Wildlife biologist Joe Burnett explained the program had a pair of condors that have been a couple for years.
The male was injured and sent to a recovery facility and during his time away another condor, tagged with 251, moved in on 222 – the female bird.
Condor 251, or Crush as park mangers call him, brought along another female, 306, into the group, forming the first known throuple.
Because the observation was new, researchers feared a second female would disrupt breeding between the two and removed 306 from the group while 251 and 222 incubated their nest.
After releasing 306 in a different area of the park, she found her way back to the group and joined the pair with raising the newly born chick.