California Condor

Kids' Species Information

California Condor

STATUS

Endangered. This means the species is in danger of dying out. We are working hard to prevent this.

In 1982, we captured the last 22 wild condors. We started breeding them at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1992, we started letting them go in the wild. As of January 2009, there are 321 condors.

DESCRIPTION

The California Condor is a vulture. Vultures are scavengers. They don't hunt for food. They feed on dead animals. That's why they have bald heads. It's easier to keep clean.

The CA Condor is one of the largest birds in North America. It has the largest wing span - about 3 meters (about 9 feet). Wow!

FOOD

Condors prefer to feed on the carcasses of large mammals including deer, marine mammals such as whales and seals, and cattle. A condor may eat up to 3 to 4 pounds at a time. They may not need to eat again for several days.

HABITAT

California condors require large areas of remote country. They forage in open grasslands and oak savanna foothills.

RANGE

During the Pleistocene Era, the condor's range extended across much of North America. Today, we are reintroducing condors in the mountains of southern California north of the Los Angeles basin, in the Big Sur vicinity of the central California coast, and near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Girl looking at CA condor egg being incubated

MATING

Condors reach maturity at about 5 and 7 years. The mother lays a single egg weighing about 280 grams (10 ounces). Parents take turns sitting on the egg.

THREATS

Condors need lots of territory to hunt. Loss of habitat has hurt them. A big current threat is lead poisoning (725 KB PDF).

EXPLORE

Pinnacles National Monument is one place you may be able to see a condor. Our three refuges devoted to condors are closed to the public. This is to protect the birds. However, there are spots outside the refuges where you may be able to see them.

Also, visit our Where Kids Can See Rare Species in Northern California page.

Hopper Mt. National Wildlife Refuge Complex has some Children's Activities that you might enjoy.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP BIRDS

There are many things you can do to protect birds. Here is some information on migratory bird conservation. It is about migratory song birds. But much of it applies to all birds.

Keep your cat inside. Cats kill millions of birds per year. Even well-fed cats kill birds. It is just their nature to hunt. Living indoors is also much safer for the cats themselves.

When you go to the beach, pay attention to signs warning you that birds are nesting. Many shore birds nest right on the beach. They are easily disturbed. Don't let your dog chase or bark at them.

Whenever you go to natural areas, observe any signs telling you how to protect wildlife and plants.

See What You Can Do to Help Wildlife and Plants (201 KB PDF) for more ideas.

MORE INFO

Kids' condor pictures at San Cayetano School Condor Art Contest

Good pictures at Near Famous Nature Photography

Photo Credits: Condor head - Scott Frier/Nikon Inc.; Girl looking at condor egg - Ron_Garrison. Both are public domain.

Words to Learn

Biologists call the condor Gymnogyps californianus. Scientific names are in Latin or Greek.

The condor is a member of the Ciconiidae family - "New world vultures."

Carrion: Dead animals. Condors feed on carrion.

Pleistocene refers to the time period from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago.