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Condor Cam in Big Sur Offers Live Stream of Wild Condor Feeding Ground

Oct 23, 2013 12:20 PM EDT

In the hills of Big Sur along the Central California coast, a non-profit group has established the fist camera to capture live, streaming video of wild California condor, North America's largest bird.  

The solar-powered "condor cam" went live Monday from its perch right above a main condor feeding area in the wilds of Big Sur. The condor cam will allow anyone who happens to check the feed at the right time the opportunity to see a rare California condor in the wild.

Click here to check out the live stream, but be warned -- the camera is located at a feeding ground and the stream frequently features images of the birds ripping apart carcasses. Several times a week, researchers put stillborn calves out for the birds to feed on.

Seeing a condor in the wild is by no means an everyday event. There are only 429 of the birds alive today and half of them are in zoos.

The condor cam is operated by the Ventana Wildlife Society, which since 1997 has been working in tandem with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to release condors in Big Sur. With sponsorship from FedEx and the Oakland Zoo, the camera was set up in a remote canyon along the Big Sur coast at about 2,800 feet elevation and about 2 miles away from the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists can use the condor cam to monitor the birds, all of which are tagged, and monitor them for medical issues such as lead poisoning, which the birds can contract by ingesting shotgun pellets lodged in hunter's uncollected kill.

The condor cam is riding a recent wave of popularity brought on by animal cams at zoos and aquariums around the country. From the sea otter cams at nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium to the panda cam at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., a live stream into the world of animals has proven to be something of a darling to netizens. Since 2011, the three most popular web cams at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have received 2.8 million views, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

It took nearly a year to get the condor cam working properly. The remote location, where access to electricity, Internet or phone service is non-existent, made establishing the camera a technological feat itself. Crews had to set up a high-speed Internet connection at a home 12 miles away from the site and set up antennas to get the signal to the solar-powered camera.

"We have to drive one-and-a-half hours up a dirt road behind five locked gates just to get to this place," Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society, told the Mercury News. "It's an all-day thing. So this is an amazing tool for us to help monitor condors in the wild."

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