Where do I go to see a California condor?
There are currently 70 (number subject to change)
free-flying adult and juvenile condors managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in southern California. They move frequently throughout their expanding
territory, so they may not always be seen on or near the refuge.
The southern California population of condors range from as
far as the Sierra Mountains to the north, San Gabriel Mountains to the south,
Tehachapi area to the east, and Santa Barbara back country to the west.
The U.S. Forest Service maintains an observation point at
Dough Flat in the Los Padres National Forest. Please contact the U.S. Forest
Service Ojai Ranger District Office for more information on road conditions at
The Dough Flat site is along the public access corridor of
the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in the Los Padres National Forest, which is managed
by the U.S. Forest Service. The driving time from Fillmore to Dough Flat is
about 1 hour (13 miles). Be sure to take plenty of water and carry a spare tire
in your vehicle. PLEASE note that the Sespe Condor Sanctuary (located on Forest
Service land) is closed to public access. The road going to Dough Flat runs
through a corridor which bisects the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. The public may
access this corridor, but the Sanctuary to the west and east of this corridor
is closed to the public.
From Los Angeles:
Take Interstate 5 (I-5) north to Castaic Junction (33
miles). Take the Ventura off-ramp and follow Highway 126 west to the town of
Fillmore (19 miles). Turn right at the stop light on “A” Street and head north.
You will come to a yield sign where “A” Street becomes Goodenough Road go
right. Goodenough Road will end after 3-4 miles at a fork in the road, go right
which takes you into the Sespe oil fields. Follow the road, being careful to
stay on the main road , the side roads will take you to oil well pads. After
3.3 miles you will see the Oak Flat Station building (no longer Forest Service
station) on your left and a condor observation sign indicating the number of
miles to Dough Flat.
From Santa Barbara:
Take Highway 101 south to Ventura. In Ventura, merge onto
Highway 126 go east to Fillmore about 20 miles. In Fillmore turn left at the
stop light at “A” Street and then continue as above.
Remember that condors are wild, which means that there is no
guarantee you will see one on a given day or at a given time. Please remember
to stay out of areas that are marked as Closed to the Public to protect condors
and other wildlife.
How can I tell the difference between a California condor
and a turkey vulture?
Condors and turkey vultures have a few key differences
besides their size. If you see a bird in flight, look for the lighter area on
the underside of the wings to help determine the species. Juvenile condors have
mottled white feathers along the leading edge of their wings. Adult condors
have bright white underwing feathers. Turkey vultures have a silvery area along
the back edges of their wings. Because underwing markings cane be difficult to
see, the way the condor holds its wings is often one of the best ways to
identify it. In flight, condors tend to hold their wings flat and soar without
any rocking back and forth. They do flap their wings, but not as often as other
birds such as turkey vultures. Turkey vultures hold their wings in a slight
"V" pattern, and will rock side to side in the wing. Their flight is
often described as wobbly or unstable when compared to that of a condor.
The heads of juvenile condors are gray until they reach the
age of 4-6, when their heads turn a pinkish orange. Adults have bright orange
pick heads. Juvenile turkey vultures also have gray heads whereas the adults
have bright red heads. Turkey vultures heads also look small in comparison to
their body size.
Also look to see if the bird you see has a number tag on
either wing. Condors will only have one wing tag but it can be on the right or
left wing. The tag can be orange, red, yellow, blue, white, black, purple, or
green with one or two digits.
Should I report a condor sighting?
If you see a condor that is ill, injured, or engaging in
potentially dangerous behavior such as feeding on a carcass possibly shot with
lead ammunition or a carcass laying in the road, approaching people, drinking
from deep water containers, or perching on artificial structures, please report
the sighting immediately by calling 805-644-5185 ext. 284 or ext. 294. Please
report the date and time of the observation, location and activity of the
condor, and the numbers on wing tag if possible. Other helpful information: how
many condors were present and the behavior of the other condors, whether other
species of birds were present and engaging in the same behavior, whether the
behavior was a first or has happened before, and how long the condor was
If you see condors that are not engaging in dangerous
behavior, you are welcome to report those observations as well. Any condor
sightings will help us keep track of their movements and activities. You can
send an email to Joseph_Brandt@fws.gov or call 805-644-5185.
If you see a condor on your property, remember that although
they are large, they pose no threat to humans, pets, or livestock. If you've
been visited by condors on your ranch or property, please remember that state
law may require switching to lead-free ammunition within condor range, as lead
poisoning is one of the biggest threats to California condors in the wild.
Please feel free to contact us with questions about
California condors by sending an email or calling one of the phone numbers
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Hopper Mountain is managed as part of the Hopper Mountain NWR Complex, which also oversees Bitter Creek, Blue Ridge, and Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes NWRs, totaling 20,015 acres of conserved land.