California Condor

(Gymnogyps californianus)

California Condor

Factoid:

Condors, the largest flying birds in North America, are monogamous and pair for life.

Status:

Endangered

Population:

How many California condors once lived is not known. In 1982, there were fewer than 25 left in the wild. Today, their numbers have increased to more than 160 living in the wild.

Threats: 

Loss of habitat, shootings, pesticide residue, lead poisoning, and collisions with power lines.

Survival:

California condors are capable of reaching up to 60 years of age in the wild.

Normally, condors breed once every two years, producing only one egg. If the egg is lost, they might be able to lay another. The male and female take turns incubating the egg and, once it hatches, feeding the offspring until it learns to find its own food, which could take a year. Playful and inquisitive, condors roost in large groups and communicate with a combination of hisses, growls, and grunts as well as a system of body language.

Instead of flapping their wings, which can span more than nine feet from tip to tip, condors soar on wind currents. Like vultures, which are in the same family, they are scavengers, but instead of relying on their sense of smell they watch for other scavengers feeding on carrion.

Adult California condors are almost entirely black. Except for a few feathers, their heads and necks are mostly bare and include shades of pink, red, orange, yellow, and light blue, becoming more intensely pink when they're excited. It's impossible to distinguish the males from the females just be looking at them.

Ten thousand years ago, California condors lived on both coasts of North America, from British Columbia to Baja California in the West, and New York to Florida in the East. By about 1900, the condor population plummeted and was limited to southern California, due to many factors including loss of habitat, a low reproductive rate, poisoning, and shooting. Today, designated refuges and captive breeding programs help protect and restore the species.

National Parks:

California condors can be found in or near Grand Canyon National Park, AZ; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, AZ/UT; and Pinnacles National Monument, CA.

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