The Californian condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is the second-largest species of vulture (Cathartidae) in the Americas after the Andean condor. The largest flying bird in North America is it is native to the southwest of the USA (especially in California and Arizona), but was widespread as far as southwestern Canada before its extinction. This disappearance in the wild was the result of active hunting and passive poisoning by pesticides (ingested through prey). From 1987 to 1992 it was considered extinct in the wild.
In 1987 only 27 individuals remained in captivity. In an elaborate conservation breeding program, the animals were successfully bred and from 1991 on condors could be reintroduced into the wild. Around 350 animals currently live in the wild and around 200 in zoos.
Where do California condors live?
If you have never seen a California condor, then it is high time for a trip to one of the places where do California condors live. It is quite impressive when you see a bird that is half the size of a human for the first time and all the more when you witness these enormous beasts flying across the beautiful landscape.
Best US National Parks to Witness California Condors
These prominent creatures don’t migrate. However, they often travel within their living territory, particularly between Big Sur and Pinnacle National Park. Here are the best parks and places in the US to spot California Condors.
1. Pinnacles National Park, California
Situated in central California, Pinnacles National Park is the most excellent place for viewing California Condors. Pinnacles have a residential pack of birds that varies from around 20-30 condors. These birds are pretty often seen in the site or enclosing areas.
Great Places to witness Condors in the Park: Condors are often spotted on the ridge south of the campground and along the High Peaks tracks.
2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
This beautiful Park is a magnificent canyon that is an ideal site for these beasts to fly. The Condors are frequently seen soaring along the canyon walls. There are around 90-100 birds in the Utah and Arizona flock.
Great Places to witness Condors in the Park: Famous spots to watch for condors are Yaki Point, Bright Angel Trail, Yavapai Point, and Lookout Studio.
3. Zion National Park, Utah
This Park is gradually becoming a preferred place for California condors. There are around 90-100 birds in these areas.
Great Places to witness Condors in the Park: Great sites to seek condors are Observation Point, Angels Landing, and any place below a condor closure.
4. Redwoods National Park, California
Redwoods National Park will be the latest release place for these beasts. The primary releases are organized for 2021 or 2022.
Great Places to witness Condors in the Park: A few released birds will probably remain in the area and be often seen roosting and nesting in the giant redwood trees.
Other Places in the US to see California Condors
Big Sur, California
Big Sur is among the most excellent sites to see California Condors. The place houses the release site infrastructure and the Ventana Wildlife Society condor research facility and is one of the release places for the birds.
The place has a residential pack of birds that varies between 20-35 individuals. These beasts are frequently viewed flying along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, California
Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge was the home of the last surviving wild condors. In 1986, the remaining wild condors were caught here and carried into the captive breeding plan.
The refuge is found at the center of two east/west mount ranges and offers a significant movement path between local creatures.
Los Padres National Forest, California
Los Padres Forest is recognized as the “House of the California Condors.” In 1947, the Sespe Condor Sanctuary was founded inside the jungle.
The Los Padres River Protection and Condor Range Act of 1992 was approved to help maintain public access to the site and conserve bird roosting, nesting, and foraging habitats. The National Forest possesses around 104 residential Condors.
Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
Kaibab Forest splits its condor population with the National Park of Grand Canyon. The tracking system indicates that these beasts use plenty of time on the Kaibab Plateau.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is among the release areas for the California condors in Arizona. You can find birds roosting at the summit of the Vermillion Mountains. Watching is best done with spotting scopes or binoculars.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah/Arizona
The Glen Canyon Area is close to Vermillion mountains, and freshly released condors frequently travel towards Glen Canyon. The residential birds are frequently observed along the dam.
Tips for Spotting Condors in the Wild
- Ask the guards about the current locations or where the condors are hanging around. It is not unusual for domestic birds to possess a preferred hangout. If touring during the spring, you might spot a breeding couple with a nest.
- Carry binoculars. Binoculars are part of the basic equipment for bird watching. they increase your viewing range and enable detailed observation of the condors from far away.
- If you notice a crowd of individuals with binoculars, halt and ask what they see. It is not surprising to see a group of birders around known observation places with their binoculars, observing a bird nest
and the condors come and go.
Someone in the crowd will be pleased to guide you to locate the condors with your spotting scopes, and if you’re friendly, you may get to see with someone else’s binoculars.
- Watch for big blackbirds flying in circles. They’re frequently seen soaring in circles along ridges and cliffs.
- Have an eye on the sky. The birds can tour up to 150 miles a day so that condors can be seen flying at any moment, anywhere in their territory.
California condor conservation status
As of 2019, there are around 519 California condors. Of these, around 338 live in the wild. In 2019, 32 captive breed chicks were released into the wild. Unfortunately, 17 wild birds died. Nine of them are due to lead poisoning. (Lead shotgun pellets used in hunting are a major poison hazard for these scavenging birds)
IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered
How many California condors are there in the wild
The current free-flying population (as of 2019)
- CA Flock – 200 Individuals
- Central CA Flock – 101 Individuals
- SoCal Flock – 99 Individuals
- AZ/UT flock – 98 Individuals
- Baja Flock – 39 Individuals
Ultimately, the future of Condor is increasing and positive. These birds will return to the Redwoods National Park and old Yurok territory in some years with a combined reintroduction effort by National Park Service, US Fish, and Wildlife Service, and the Yurok Tribe.
How big is a California condor
The California condor belongs to the largest flying bird in the world. These majestic birds can have a wingspan of up to 10 feet, this is just a little less than its close relative, the Andean condor. Standing upright, the bird can reach heights of up to 4 feet and with a bodyweight of 25 to 30 pounds, the California condor is one of the heavyweights among the flying birds
How long do California condors live
California condors have a fairly long life expectancy and can live to be over 50 years in the wild. In captivity, they live significantly longer, sometimes up to over 60 years. This is because California condors are less exposed to dangers in captivity than they are in their natural habitat and even if they are sick they can hope for the help of a veterinarian.
What do California condors eat?
Like vultures, California condors are carnivorous, and meal on big animals’ remains, such as deer and cows. When a large feast is possible, the condors may feed themselves so abundantly that they need to rest for many hours before moving again.
These birds may travel many km a day searching for food, but they use the maximum of their time grooming, preening, and sunning inside their roost.