California condor

The largest soaring bird of North American continent

Don Graham

An iconic species and a testament to conservation efforts, having been brought back from the brink of extinction. These majestic birds, the largest land birds in North America, have a commanding presence with a wingspan that can reach up to 3 meters (9.8 feet), allowing them to ride thermal currents with minimal effort.

Their plumage is primarily black with stark white patches underneath their wings, and they have distinctive bald heads ranging in color from yellowish-orange to pinkish-red, depending on the bird’s mood and health. This lack of feathers on the head is an adaptation for hygiene, allowing the carrion they feed on not to stick to their heads, thus preventing bacterial growth and disease.

California condors are scavengers, feeding exclusively on dead animals, and play a critical role in their ecosystem by disposing of carcasses. Their keen eyesight allows them to spot potential food sources from great distances as they soar at high altitudes.

These birds are highly social and often roost and fly in groups. They have a complex social structure and engage in communal activities, such as group preening and shared roosting sites. This social behavior is also crucial during feeding, where the hierarchy within the group determines who eats first at carcasses.

The conservation history of the California condor is dramatic. By the mid-1980s, due to poaching, lead poisoning from ammunition in carcasses, habitat destruction, and other human-induced factors, the entire wild population was reduced to a few individuals. A controversial yet ultimately successful conservation decision was made to capture all remaining wild condors and place them into a captive breeding program. This effort has led to a slow but steady increase in their numbers, and they have been reintroduced into the wild in parts of their historical range in California, Arizona, Utah, and Baja California, Mexico.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Mexico
2020
Reintroduced
United States
2020
Reintroduced

Anything we've missed?

Help us improve this page by suggesting edits. Glory never dies!

Suggest an edit

Get to know me

Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No