The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a New World vulture and the largest North American land bird. It became extinct in the wild in 1987 when all remaining wild individuals were captured, but has since been reintroduced to northern Arizona and southern Utah (including the Grand Canyon area and Zion National Park), the coastal mountains of California, and northern Baja California in Mexico. It is the only surviving member of the genus Gymnogyps, although four extinct members of the genus are also known. The species is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as Critically Endangered, and similarly considered Critically Imperiled by NatureServe.
The plumage is black with patches of white on the underside of the wings; the head is largely bald, with skin color ranging from gray on young birds to yellow and bright orange on breeding adults. Its 3.0 m (9.8 ft) wingspan is the widest of any North American bird, and its weight of up to 12 kg (26 lb) nearly equals that of the trumpeter swan, the heaviest among native North American bird species. The condor is a scavenger and eats large amounts of carrion. It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 60 years.
Condor numbers dramatically declined in the 20th century due to agricultural chemicals (DDT), poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction. A conservation plan put in place by the United States government led to the capture of all the remaining wild condors by 1987, with a total population of 27 individuals. These surviving birds were bred at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. Numbers rose through captive breeding, and beginning in 1991, condors were reintroduced into the wild. Since then, their population has grown, but the California condor remains one of the world's rarest bird species. By 31 December 2022, the National Park Service gave a total world population of 561. A current estimation of a population of 558 is provided by the non-profit Ventana Wildlife Society on their website. The condor is a significant bird to many Californian Native American groups and plays an important role in several of their traditional myths.
Location: Califorian Coast
Photographer: Ned Clark