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A Talk on the Wild Side.

California Condor and its 9.5-foot Wingspan Spread to Mexico

California condor
One of the male California condors at Mexico's Chapultepec Zoo. Photo by San Diego Zoo Global

Don’t let the name fool you. California condors used to call many areas of the United States home. During the Pleistocene Era, ending 10,000 years ago, the condor's range even extended across much of North America. When the European settlers arrived, California condors ranged all along the Pacific Coast, from British Columbia, Canada in the north to Baja California, Mexico in the south.  Now, some California condors are moving back to Mexico.

The California condor population fell as people spread over North America. By 1982, only 22 condors survived in the wild, and all were limited to the mountainous areas of southern California. A captive breeding program helped the condor survive -- the population now totals 425 California condors and more than half of them live in the wild -- and begin its slow road to recovery. In 2014, a total of 15 captive bred California condors were released in the wild.

In addition to our work, we have some tremendous partners helping the condor, such as the California State Fish and Game Commission and the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos. And last year, we strengthened our partnership with a longtime member in the condor recovery community: Mexico.

California condor
A California condor flies over Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in California. Photo by USFWS

On August 12, 2002, five California condors were transferred to Sierra de San Pedro Martir National Park, Baja California, Mexico, and now 28 condors live in the wild in San Pedro Martir. In 2013, two chicks were successfully hatched and fledged for the first time in Mexico. San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research manages the Recovery Program in Baja, working closely with us and Mexico’s National Commission for Natural Protected Areas.

But that’s not all. 

In November, the United States sent two female condors to the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City to join two males already there. These four will start a captive breeding program at Chapultepec to supplement the San Pedro Martir free-flying population; one of the pairs is already incubating an egg. 

We support the Chapultepec Zoo breeding program as well as many other condor projects. One is working with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research to minimize human-condor conflicts through education. This week, U.S. and Mexico conservation efforts for the California condor are an important topic at the Canada/Mexico/U.S. Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management annual meeting taking place in San Diego. 

The condor still faces steep odds, but cross-border support is helping make the California condor a citizen of two countries once again.

By Matt Trott, External Affairs

This is excellent news. Birds matter!
# Posted By SaunieInDiego | 4/17/16 1:08 AM

I believe we saw a condor flying high above the pine forest in the Parque National de Constitucion 1857 over Memorial Day. The park, located south of Tecate and east of Ensenada, is spectacular but little visited just as the San Pedro Martir park which is 3-4 hours driving further south.
# Posted By Claus | 6/7/18 5:30 PM

Thank you for your comment! It is possible that you saw a California condor there. The work of our California Condor Recovery Program <https://www.fws.gov/cno/es/CalCondor/Condor.cfm>...; focuses on the creation of self-sustaining populations of condors through captive-breeding and the reintroduction of birds to the wild, including Mexico.
# Posted By Fish and Wildlife Service | 6/15/18 7:30 AM

Big bird gonna make it . Woo-hoo !!
# Posted By | 6/22/18 10:14 PM

Do the wild populations require provided food or are they foraging on their own?
# Posted By Steve McKay | 7/28/18 10:27 PM

Good question. Wild condors do not require food provided by the refuge complex to survive except when there are new captive bred birds that are being released into the wild. When captive bred birds are released into the wild we provide food for several months as they get accustomed to foraging on their own and traveling farther and rather for other natural food sources. We monitor the movements of the newly released birds to determine when we can stop the supplemental feeding.
# Posted By Fish and Wildlife Service | 7/30/18 1:45 PM
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