FWS Focus

Overview

The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), with a wingspan of 9.5 feet and weighing up to 25 pounds, is the largest land bird in North America. These majestic creatures historically ranged from California to Florida and Western Canada to Northern Mexico. By the mid-20th century, condor populations had dropped dramatically, and by 1967 the California condor was listed as endangered by the federal government. In 1982, only 23 condors survived world-wide. By 1987, all remaining wild condors were placed into a captive breeding program in an effort to save the species from extinction.  

Since 1992, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began reintroducing captive-bred condors to the wild, the USFWS and its public and private partners have grown the total free-flying and captive population to more than 500 condors In 2004, the Recovery program reached an important milestone with the first successful chick hatched in the wild. In 2008,  more California condors flying free in the wild than in captivity for the first time since the program began.  

California Condor Recovery Program 

The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is an international multi-entity effort, led by the USFWS, to recover the endangered California condor. Partners in condor recovery include the Peregrine Fund, Ventana Wildlife Society, National Park Service, San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, Arizona Game and Fish Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, the federal government of Mexico, the Yurok Tribe, and a host of other governmental and non-governmental organizations. 

The Recovery Program’s focus is the creation of robust self-sustaining populations across the species’ historical distribution. We are placing increased emphasis on captive-breeding to augment the wild population of California condors while working with the hunting and ranching community to reduce the threat of lead poisoning cause by spent ammunition, which is the primary cause of death in the wild and the biggest hurdle to sustainable wild populations.  

The goal of the California Condor Recovery Plan is to take steps toward recovery by establishing two wild, geographically distinct self-sustaining populations, each with 150 birds in the wild and at least 15 breeding pairs, with a third population of condors retained in captivity There are three active release sites in California, one in Arizona and one in Baja, Mexico. We’re working with National Park Service and the Yurok Tribe on a new release site in Yurok Ancestral Territory and Redwood National Park in Northern California. 

How you can help California Condors 

  • Use non-lead ammunition for hunting and/or dispatch of livestock. Lead ammunition fragments upon impact and, if consumed by a scavenger such as a condor, can result in lead poisoning, which is the number one known cause of death in California condors.  

  • Never feed or touch a condor.  

  • Pick up microtrash, or small bits of trash such as broken glass, bottle caps, can tabs and other smaller, broken-down pieces of trash that can be ingested by condors. Condors can ingest small items around homes and feed them to their chicks which can cause starvation, stunted growth and death. 

  • Do not leave garbage or poisons such as antifreeze in the wild. 

  • If you live in condor country, and condors are landing or causing damage to your property, spray water, yell, clap, and make loud noises to scare them away, or install a motion-activated scarecrow animal deterrent.  

  • Condors are curious, and as they explore their environment, they may become entangled in loose wires, or tear at other materials with their beaks.  Remove or prevent access to things that may attract condors, like open trash and recyclable containers, wires, seat cushions and drinkable water resources. 

  • If you see a California condor, record the wing tag # and color, and email the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California Condor Recovery Program at hoppermountain@fws.gov.  

Scientific Name

Gymnogyps californianus
Common Name
California Condor
FWS Category
Birds
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Geography

Launch Interactive Map

Timeline

Explore the information available for this taxon's timeline. You can select an event on the timeline to view more information, or cycle through the content available in the carousel below.

14 Items