A baby California condor now snuggles with a plush condor after its mother died from the highly pathogenic avian influenza, officials said.
The mom first showed signs of distress March 28 in Arizona, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a May 12 news release.
Wildlife officials removed the mom from the nest where she had been incubating an egg, and they tested her, officials said. The mother condor died after testing positive for the avian flu.
The baby condor’s father continued to protect the egg, but wildlife officials had concerns about the bird’s health because the nest was contaminated with avian flu.
They decided to remove the egg from the nest and sent it to Liberty Wildlife in Phoenix, where it hatched May 9, wildlife officials said. The baby has tested negative for the avian flu.
Now “motherless,” the baby condor cuddles with a temporary “mom” — a plush condor, according to The Peregrine Fund.
Photos show the small bird resting in its enclosure, cradled with blankets and a large stuffed animal.
But the chick won’t be without real parents for long.
Wildlife officials said foster parents have been identified at The Peregrine Fund’s captive breeding facility. The parents will raise the chick and “maximize the likelihood it can be released back into the wild,” officials said.
Condor first tests positive in March
The Southwest flock includes condors that roam in northern Arizona and southern Utah, including among Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.
Since the first confirmed case, 17 California condors that tested positive for avian flu have died. Four other condors in the flock died but have not been tested.
There are also five condors who are being cared for.
The avian flu occurs naturally in birds, and it is classified into two groups, according to wildlife officials. Low pathogenic avian influenza viruses cause no “clinical illness, or only minor symptoms in birds.”
On the other end, the highly pathogenic avian flu is “extremely infectious and fatal to poultry and some species of wild birds.”