WatchList Species Account for California Condor
(Gymnogyps californianus)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Photo: USFWS

The California Condor is America's largest vulture, with an impressive wingspread of over nine feet and a weight of over 18 pounds. It soars above a vast home range and covers great distances during its daily activities. In the early 19th century the bird ranged as far north as British Columbia but by the mid-20th century was only found in southern California.

 

The California Condor is a social bird in its feeding behavior, and is primarily dependent on large mammalian carcasses. These birds also associate in communal roosts. They do not reach sexual maturity until six years of age, and lay only a single egg each year.

 

By 1987, excessive mortality due to poisoning and shooting had virtually extirpated the California Condor in the wild, so that the decision was made to capture the remaining individuals; the only condors left alive at that point were at the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos.

 

Successful efforts to breed the bird in captivity have added considerably to its numbers, and since 1992 there have been attempts to reintroduce it into the wild. Lead poisoning continues to be a major threat to reintroduced populations

 

The primary threat to the bird during nesting is predation on the eggs by ravens; Golden Eagles can pose a threat to nestlings. Besides lead poisoning, a major threat to the bird is collisions with overhead wires. Reintroduced populations are the subjects of ongoing intensive study and monitoring.