The California Condor is the largest North American land bird. It is a critically endangered species with only about 500 living individuals as of 2020.
California Condors are very large birds of prey. They resemble airplanes when in flight because of their broad wings, which they hardly flap at all. Their primary feathers also look like long “fingers” as they’re spread out when in the air.
California Condors have yellow skin coloring on their heads and necks. The color can change from yellowish to red (and variants in between) during courtship or when it’s angry or distressed. Their eyes are brownish-red with red scleras (surrounding the iris).
They have pinkish air sacs in the throat and near the breast area, which puff out during courtship or for aggressive displays. They also have black feathers around the base of their necks. Their backs and wings are black. The underside of the wings have triangular white patches that are visible in flight.
Juveniles look similar to adults, with the exception of the coloration on the head and the patches on the underside of their wings. A Juvenile’s head is mottled dark brown with black. Under its wings, the color is mottled gray instead of white.
- Gymnogyps californianus
- Length: 46 – 52 in (117 – 132 cm)
- Weight: 356.8 oz (10, 112 g)
- Wingspan: 72 – 108 in (183 – 274 cm)
California Condor’s range has started expanding with the conservation efforts and they are now found east of California in Utah and Arizona.
Habitat And Diet
You can find California Condors in a variety of habitats as they need open or semi-open grasslands, scrublands, and woodlands for foraging and nesting. They also need as much as 6,000 feet of elevation and open and windy areas, like cliff edges or exposed tree branches, to give them high perches for launching into flight.
The California Condor normally uses thermals, or upward currents of warm air, to gain height and keep them soaring in the air.
California Condors are carrion eaters. Carrion is flesh from any decaying animal. They eat medium to large-sized dead animals, preferably those recently killed or died. These animals include sheep, deer, elk, horses, sea lions, and whales. They eat even the bones of smaller animals to supplement their calcium needs.
California Condor Calls:
They are usually silent, but can make some grunts, hisses, or snorts.
Nests of California Condors are usually in cliff caves, but these are not actual nests because California Condors don’t actually build them. The female lays only one egg every other year. This is one of the reasons why their numbers are too few. But, the good thing is that they are known to “double clutch”, meaning they may lay another egg to replace a “lost” one.
Researchers then take advantage of this to double the reproductive rate by taking one egg to raise themselves and leaving the second egg for the actual parents to raise. Incubation is done by both parents for around fifty-five days. Once hatched, the young stay with their parents until they’re in their second year.
California Condors have a long life span, reaching up to sixty years. They were originally almost extinct despite this, but conservation efforts have proven successful, and now there are as many as 500 birds in the wild and in captivity.