Tag Archives: Condors

California Condors – Endangered Species



See video of Condors Moving to Mexico

Natural History – California Condor

Common Name — California Condor
Biological Name — Gymnogyps californianus

Family –Cathartidae (an ancient vulture family)

Status — Critically Endangered

California Condors are close to extinction. Condors are a critically endangered species. Habitat loss and diminishing gene pools are primary threats to these gigantic scavengers in Southern California.

I once sat on a hillside for a day as part of a CONDOR WATCH. We were part of a research group trying to assess the size of the population. It was a hot day and some people saw Condors but we did not at our location. We were not surprised because at the time there were less than 20 condors still living in the wild. Once California condors were much more common and had a range from Canada to Baja California  in the western states.

Condors have been a hot topic in the world of conservation. The San Diego Zoo has been instrumental in raising condors to release into the wild with some considerable success. One of these california condors is discussed in this article. TODAY about the egg in Mexico. It does not get much more exciting in the wildlife conservation world than this! (see quotes below)

California Condors may have wingspans of about 7-9 feet.Larger than the average vulture to which it is closely related, condors are sometimes mistaken for small airplanes at a distance. The only other larger birds in North America include the Swans-Trumpeter and Mute, the Whooping Crane and for overall size the American White Pelican.

Condor heads are mostly bald as with other vulture species. The color of the California Condor head may be blackish, red or shiny white, depending on the circumstances and the age of the bird. The bald head of the California Condor exposes it to ultraviolet rays which can have a sterilizing impact to protect them from parasites which they encounter while eating carrion. Their feet are more suited to walking than other vulture species.They actually have an astounding sense of smell.

UPDATE: April 23,2007  The egg hatched.


FROM PeoplePC.Com Monday, April 2, 2007

SAN DIEGO – A California condor has laid an egg in Mexico for the first time since at least the 1930s, biologists at the Zoological Society of San Diego announced Monday. If the chick hatches and survives, scientists hope it will herald the return of a breeding condor population to Mexico, decades after the iconic giant of the skies was wiped out there.

“This is a momentous occasion,” said Dr. Mike Wallace, a field scientist who observed and measured the egg in its nest. “We’re all excited.”

Wallace and colleagues found the egg March 24 in an abandoned eagle nest on a cliff in the Sierra San Pedro de Martir National Park, located in the arid interior of the Baja California peninsula more than 100 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Wallace climbed to the nest and took photographs and measurements of the egg, shining a bright light through the shell to determine that the egg was 45 to 50 days old. Condor eggs incubate for 57 days, meaning the chick could hatch any day. There was also a chance the egg was dead, but Wallace said he did not smell any sulfur and the parent condors were still tending to it.

“We are all sitting on pins and needles waiting to see where the situation is going,” said Wallace, who works for the zoological society’s center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species. The society also runs the San Diego Zoo and its wild animal park.

A type of vulture, the condor scavenges dead fish and animals – as coastal population of seals and otters declined, so too did the bird. The use of poison to kill California’s grizzly bears in the 1800s also devastated numbers and lead shot remains a potential source of poison. Hunting, egg collecting, and power cables were also blamed for hurting the creature’s numbers.

Only 22 California condors were left by the 1980s, and the last documented sighting in Mexico was in the 1930s, Wallace said.

Thanks to a captive-breeding program, numbers recovered to a worldwide total of about 280. More than 100 of these fly free in the skies above parts of California, Nevada and Utah. Working with the Mexican government, biologists reintroduced captive-bred birds to Mexico in 2002.

Condors don’t reproduce until they are several years old, Wallace said. The 7-year-old female that laid the egg in Mexico, known as Condor 217, was born at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Weighing up to 26 pounds and with a wingspan of almost 10 feet, the California condor is one of the world’s largest birds. Another species of condor, found in the Andes, is also under threat but its numbers are in the thousands, Wallace said.

Several organizations have been working together to boost condor numbers under the Condor Recovery Program, which was founded in 1982 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among them are several Mexican groups, the Los Angeles Zoo, Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey and Oregon Zoo.— On the Net: Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, http://cres.sandiegozoo.org/

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THE EGG in Mexico hatched April 23, 2007.

It is a ray of hope at a time when three California Condors died in California within one month.

Probably from Lead Poisoning.

The biggest threat to California Condors in 2008 has been the WILDFIRES in the BIG SUR area near Condor habitat.

California Condors – Endangered Species