Welcome, Marijo! The National Aviary today announced that the female Andean Condor chick who hatched on June 7 has been named by Rich Caruso and John and Mary Ann DiDonato, three generous supporters of the National Aviary. Andean Condors are Critically Endangered in Ecuador, where the National Aviary has worked for years to support conservation of the species. In an exciting turn of events, Marijo fledged the nest this afternoon, taking her first steps out of the nest cave where she has been staying with her mother, Lianni. Marijo may continue to spend a majority of her time in the nest cave as she acclimates.
Until today, Marijo had been nestled in a nest cave in the craggy cliff side of the National Aviary’s Condor Court habitat, which mimics the High Andes environs the species inhabits in the wild. At a press conference Thursday, Rich Caruso, one of the three donors, pulled back a black cloth, revealing a photo of the fluffy chick with her name, Marijo, in bold lettering.
“My dear friends, John and Mary Ann DiDonato, and I are thrilled to celebrate the hatching of this special chick and to support the National Aviary’s work with Andean Condors,” said Rich Caruso, National Aviary Board Member and friend. “The name ‘Marijo’ combines the first two letters of each of our names. It is an honor to know that this chick, who represents hope for her species, has a little bit of each of our names reflected in hers.”
Andean Condors mature slowly and spend several months in the nest before fledging. The chick is healthy and thriving, and in just a few months, she will be as large as her very attentive mother, Lianni. Andean Condors can weigh up to 30 pounds and boast wingspans as wide as 10 feet. While in the nest cave, Marijo has not only been growing in stature, but also in curiosity. The chick has been stretching her long legs, flapping her wings to build strength, and peering out of the cave. Today, she took her first steps out of the nest cave and began to explore her home in Condor Court.
“Marijo’s hatching is a major development in the National Aviary’s longstanding work to help Andean Condor populations rebound. We are so grateful to be able to share this momentous occasion with our friends and supporters, Rich, John, and Mary Ann,” said Cheryl Tracy, Executive Director of the National Aviary.
Andean Condor populations in the wild have declined in recent decades. The National Aviary has worked in Ecuador to help alleviate pressures on condors through education initiatives that engage communities in caring for the species, field research that increases understanding and protections for Andean Condor habitats, and veterinary care advancements that have helped rehabilitate wild condors. As scavengers, condors play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. In addition to facing human pressures, Andean Condors reproduce slowly, producing only one egg every 12 to 18 months and caring for individual chicks for several months, making it especially difficult for the population of this iconic species to rebound.
“Andean Condors are incredible, impressive birds, and the National Aviary has been working towards the conservation of this species for many years,” said Kurt Hundgen, Director of Animal Care and Conservation Programs for the National Aviary. “Marijo is one of just three Andean Condors to hatch in a North American zoo in the last year—she is very special and her hatching represents a step forward in the effort to save this important species.”
The National Aviary participates in the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for Andean Condors. Through this collaborative effort, Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited institutions work to enhance conservation of species like Andean Condors, working collectively to ensure the entire population remains healthy and genetically diverse for the long-term future.