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 adults head
becomes orange-red. They show emotions through skin
color changes, by blushing more red.
Condors start mating when theyre
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
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.