The California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus, is one of the largest birds in the world that can fly. They are primarily black, with a white triangle under each wing and a bald head. Their wingspan can measure up to 9.5 feet long and can weigh over 20 pounds. The California Condor has physical similarities to a Turkey Vulture, so it can be easy to mistake one for the other. One key difference is that a condor flies with its wings straight out in a line, while a vultures wings make a V-shape in flight.
Condors are scavengers, meaning they search for and feed off dead animals. These can include elk, deer, sheep, and even cows. California Condors are found in the Southwest region of the United States, specifically Arizona, Utah, and California. They nest in the natural cavities of cliffs, and the nearest nests to Cedar Breaks are in Zion National Park. The nearby condors occasionally make their way up to Cedar Breaks, particularly during the summer, and can be seen flying over the geologic amphitheater.
Today, the California Condor is at high risk of extinction, but their current population is much larger than it was in the 1980s. Because of their slow reproduction rate, hunting, and lead poisoning from lead bullets in carcasses, condors were driven to the brink of extinction. In 1987, 27 condors were brought into a captive breeding program to save the nearly extinct species. The program was successful, and between those in captivity and in the wild, there are now over 400 condors that are descendants of the original 27.
Like all wildlife, it is important that we keep our distance, respect their habitat, and refrain from feeding them. Remember to be aware of at-risk or extinct species when it comes to recreational activities such as hunting. Hunters outside of the park boundaries can also help the condors by using lead free bullets. By caring for all wildlife, we help protect them from the risk of extinction.
(n.d.). California Condor [Review of California Condor]. California Department of Fish and Wildlife; CA.gov. https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Birds/California-Condor
Last updated: April 26, 2022