One of the world's most endangered species, the California condor is also an ongoing success story for captive breeding programs. In 1987, with fewer than 30 birds remaining in the wild, all the wild birds were captured to become part of a restoration program. Today, more than 100 California condors are flying free, and the population continues to be augmented through breeding programs.
- Bill: Thick, white, hooked, pale cere
- Size: 45-55 inches long with 95-110-inch wingspan, neck ruff
- Colors: Black, white, pink, yellow, orange
- Markings: Genders are similar with a bare head and neck that may appear pink, yellow, white or orange. Overall plumage is black with a thin line of white on the upper wings in flight, and white underwing coverts on the inner wing visible in flight. Legs and feet are pale pink or white. Species is monotypic. Due to conservation status, California condors also frequently sport numbered wing tags.
Habitat and Migration:
Abundant and widespread millennia ago, the California condor is now restricted to very isolated populations in southern California, northern Arizona and southern Utah. These birds prefer rocky, open habitats such as foothills, canyons and rugged mountains.
These birds are typically silent though their large wings do make a prominent swish or swoosh sound in flight. Vocalizations commonly include raspy, low grunts and snorts as well as infrequent whistles.
These are steady, deliberate birds that have a powerful soaring flight during which they rarely flap their wings, and they can easily cover great distances. Depending on available food sources, they may go several days without feeding. When not in flight, they frequently spread their wings in a sunning posture.
California condors are monogamous birds that are believed to mate for life. A mated pair will raise a single egg every other year, and both parents share the incubation duties for 40-50 days. After hatching, the young bird will stay under its parents' care for a minimum of 160-180 days and as long as a full year. These birds are not sexually mature until 5-7 years old, which has hampered efforts to rebuild the population of the species.
Attracting California Condors:
These powerful birds of prey are not backyard birds, but they do reuse the same nests year after year and will return to the same feeding areas (many of which are stocked with suitable food as part of recovery efforts), giving birders unique viewing opportunities. Ongoing conservation efforts are essential to continue rebuilding the species, and birders can help through donations to appropriate organizations as well as being aware of the hazards lead poisoning and hunting pose to California condors.