California Condor Facts!

California Condor Grand Canyon
A California Condor perched on a rock. South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon. Image credit: George Kathy Klinich cc2.0

California Condor Facts!

California Condor Grand Canyon
A California Condor perched on a rock. South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon. Image credit: George Kathy Klinich cc2.0

The California condor is the largest bird in North America, with a wing span of 9.5 feet (2.9 meters)! It can fly at great speeds — up to 55 miles (89 kilometers) per hour — and reach heights of 15,000 feet (4572 meters).

California condor Los Padres National Forest
California condor #412 soars above the Los Padres National Forest. Image credit: Pacific Southwest Region cc2.0

They spend their days soaring through the sky and scanning the land below, rarely having to flap their wings to keep aloft. Like all vultures, California condors feed on carrion (the dead, decaying matter of animals). Because of this, they are a very important part of the ecosystem. They’ll eat any matter that is already dead, from rats to beached whales, though they prefer the larger animals. Though they can go without eating for days, when they do find food they devour as much as possible, about 2 to 3 pounds (0.9 to 1.4 kilograms). Their sense of smell is not very good, and they depend on their keen eyesight to find their meals.

Endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus)
Endangered California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Photo credit: Scott Nikon/Frier USFWS cc2.0


The California condor is not a very pretty sight, mostly because of its naked head. However, this actually plays a beneficial role — preventing rotting food from sticking to it while the bird eats. If it does get dirty, though, it cleans its head and neck by bathing in rock pools or rubbing against grass, branches or rocks after eating. It also has a tough immune system that keeps it from getting sick from any bacteria that is growing on its decaying meals.

30-day old California condor chick
A California condor sits next to its 30-day old chick in the nest cave. Image credit: Joseph Brandt/USFWS cc2.0

The female lays just a single egg every other year, and the condor pair takes very good care of this egg. However, if the egg is lost in any way, the female will lay another one to replace it. This comes in handy to researchers and conservationists. They can take away an egg to raise it, and the condor pair will lay another one, which increases their reproductive rate.

Four California Condors in Hopper Mountain Capture Facility
Four condors await medical evaluation at the condor capture facility at Hopper Mountain NWR. Image credit: Jon Myatt/USFWS cc2.0

California condors are something of a comeback story. In 1987, there were only about thirty left in the world, and most of those were in captivity. An intensive captive breeding program led to the reintroduction of the species to the wild, in 2003, and the wild population is now at about 230 birds! Even so, they are still Critically Endangered, and depend on active conservation management.

California Condors are also mentioned in:
A World of Ugliest Animals — The Ugliest Animals on Earth!

California Condors are featured in the following book:
25 Endangered Animals

The YouTube video playlist below contains videos about California Condors. Details of the videos featured are underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. Wild California Condors Made Here by SciFri
  2. Flying giants–rare California condors return to Utah skies by UDWR
  3. California condor in the wild by frolovmark
  4. California condor escaping extinction by CBSNewsOnline
  5. California condor chick hatches by SDZoo
  6. California Condor release September 25 2010 at Vermilion Cliffs Arizona by tpfwcbp


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here