Conservation and Condors

Before telling you about California Condors, I wanted to share a petition from the National Audubon Society. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to create a new wildlife refuge throughout 6 states in the Northeast called Great Thicket NWR. This refuge could potentially help many bird and other animal species. Please sign and share! The deadline for this petition is Friday March 4.  Here’s the link:

Great Thicket NWR petition from Audubon

I read a great article from the National Audubon Society about California Condors. For the first time in decades, 2015 was the first year that the number of chicks raised was higher than the number of deaths in the wild. There were 12 California Condors deaths and 14 chicks raised. Check out the article here: California Condor Recovery

This is good news for the California Condor. In the 1970s the Condor was one of the first animals to be protected by the Endangered Species Act By the 1980s there were only around 23 individuals left in the wild. The numbers declined due to lead poisoning, DDT, and habitat loss. In 1987 all the remaining individuals were put into captivity. Through captive breeding programs,  organizations have helped the California Condor’s population increase. There are now around 270 individuals in the wild and around 150 in captivity. There’s still a lot of work to do to help this species, but so far things are progressing well.

Here’s some fun facts about this amazing bird.

  • The California Condor is a New World vulture that lives in Arizona, California and Baja. It is the largest bird species in North America, with a wingspan that can stretch  up to 10 feet from tip to tip!
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California Condor (Image by Stacy via Wikipedia)
  • California Condors nest high on cliff tops. Population recovery is slow because California Condors don’t breed every year and females only lay one egg for each breeding attempt. Young condors don’t begin breeding until they are around 8 years old.
  • They can soar for hours on air currents as high as 15,000 feet!
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Condor #87 soaring in Grand Canyon National Park (Image by Ned Harris via allaboutbird.org)
  • California Condors are not predators, they are carrion feeders. This means they don’t kill their own prey, but consume animals that were already killed. These huge birds dine on large mammals such as deer, cattle, and sheep. Condors will gorge themselves until they can’t eat anymore and may not eat for another week or two until they find another carcass. They can store up to 3 pounds of meat in a part of their esophagus called a “crop”.
  • Mating pairs are monogamous. They will stay together throughout the year and share parenting duties, usually until a member of the pair dies.
  • California Condors don’t have vocal cords. They only make hissing and grunting noises.
  • It can take up to a week for a chick to fully hatch from its egg.
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(Image via animals.sandiegozoo.org)

Last year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology had a California Condor cam in partnership with Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Unfortunately, the condor chick we were watching died, but there is a possibility that there will be another cam in the future. California Condors are really magnificent birds. Hopefully through conservation efforts we will be able to continue enjoying California Condors for generations to come.

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Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily birdwatch throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

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