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The California Condor

Updated: Nov 10, 2020




Brief Description

The California Condor’s range once spanned the entire west coast of North America and parts of Florida and New York, but overtime was diminished to only 22 individuals in the wild by 1982. This happened for several reasons, but the most prominent reason was poison. Yes, you read that correctly. The California Condor was poisoned vicariously by settlers. Many of the pests that the Condor prey on were poisoned by settlers or shot with lead, leading to lead poisoning. Even today, the number one cause of death for Condors is lead poisoning. In addition to this, Condors feed their chicks various small things, some of these being “microtrash” like pennies which also kills Condors. Despite all these things, Condors are some of the most intelligent, albeit ugly, birds in the sky. Condors live within a intricate social structure, only breeding every other year and pairing off with a single mate for life. They are characterized by their massive dark wings, Bruce Willis style balding heads, and blunt talons.


The general population trend for California Condors in the wild since 1967. ©Center for Biological Diversity. Find the original here.

Written by — Joe Sweeney


Fun Facts

  1. California Condors have a wingspan that can reach up to 10 ft. or 3 meters.


How You Can Help

California Condors have been on the recovery for some time now, but that does not mean they still do not need our protection. Thanks to the work of the Ventana Wildlife Society, San Diego Zoo, and other captive breeding programs the California Condor population has dramatically improved over the past 20 years. The programs below are critical to the survival of the species and have been working tirelessly to manage the California Condor populations in the wild.

The key to creating a self sustaining and growing population of California Condors in the wild as David Shepherdson, Deputy Conservation Manager at the Oregon Zoo, says is “The answer is relatively simple. The first is to switch to non-lead ammunition, because this is the leading cause of Condor mortality by far. The second is to make sure trash is never left in the environment. Essentially, we need to pick up after ourselves. Until we can solve those two problems, Condors will not be self sustaining in the wild.”


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