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About Condors

The California condor is the largest land bird in North America. Adult condors have a wingspan of approximately 9.5 feet, weigh about 22 pounds, and stand between 45 and 55 inches tall.

Juvenile condors have black heads. As they mature, the bare skin on the adult’s head becomes orange-red. They show emotions through skin color changes, by blushing more red.

Condors start mating when they’re between 5 and 7 years old, and they mate for life. However, if one partner dies, the remaining partner seeks a new mate. Females lay only one egg. Fledglings are cared for by both parents for 18 months, and another egg is not produced until that chick is on its own. Chicks begin to fly at about 6 or 7 months of age. Condors in the wild can live for 40 years.

Condors are scavengers. They feed only on animal carcasses and do not kill live prey. After eating, they clean their head and neck by bathing in water or by rubbing against grass, rocks, or tree branches. Their beaks are long, sharp, and powerful. They have good hearing and keen eyesight.

In their search for food, condors have been known to fly up to 150 miles in a day. They can soar on thermals at altitudes of 15,000 feet, though normally soar much lower.

Condors are very social, communicating with grunts, hisses, growls, and body language. Condors released into the wild will come back to the release pen to visit new chicks. Those that have been released in the Big Sur, California area have flown down the coast to visit other released condors in the Santa Barbara area, sometimes staying for several months.

Condors roost in large live trees or dead snags. They also live on rocky cliffs, and nest in caves on cliff faces when incubating their eggs. They spend most of their time perched, sunning and preening or drying their feathers with wings outstretched.

While historically California condors ranged throughout the southern United States, by the 1940s they were found only on the West Coast, primarily in the coastal mountains of southern California. As they began to approach extinction they were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in March of 1967.

One of the main causes of the condors’ demise was their consuming and digesting fragments of lead bullets used to kill the animals on whose remains they feed. Condors have strong digestive systems and are able to break down bullet fragments. They can succumb to lead poisoning. Others have died from collisions with or electrocution by power lines.

Happily, today, California condors are being reintroduced into the coastal mountains near Santa Barbara and in central California in the vicinity of Big Sur and at the Pinnacles National Monument, as well as near the Grand Canyon and in Baja California as part of the Condor Recovery Program.



Learn More About California Condors

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Ventana Wilderness Society provide additional information about these magnificent birds as does The Peregrine Fund. To find out more, go to: