California Condors
Richard Erwin

The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is the largest terrestrial bird in North America. It is black in color and sports a bald head with very few feathers. The color of the head varies from white to reddish purple. The bare head is an adaptation for hygiene since they eat dead and rotting meat and must, for the most part, stick their heads into the carcasses to feed. Condors mostly consume carrion (dead animal carcasses). They prefer the carcasses of large dead animals like deer, cattle, and sheep; however, they are also known to eat the carcasses of smaller animals like rodents and rabbits. Condors stand approximately 50 inches tall and have a wingspan of about 9 feet, with the longest ever verified at 9 feet 10 inches. They weigh between 17 and 25 pounds, with the heaviest ever verified at 31 pounds the males are larger than the females. Condors live an average of about 60 years, if they have sufficient food and are not killed by environmental factors. Historically, the California Condor ranged throughout the western U.S. from Canada to Mexico, and some birds lived as far east as Florida and New York. But the numbers of these birds declined rapidly during the 20th century until only 22 were left. In 1987, the last of the wild condors was captured and a breeding program was intensified, leading to their reintroduction to the wild in 1992. This program continues and has been very successful so far, with 390 condors alive as of December, 2011, 210 of which are in the wild in California, Arizona, and Baja California. Condors can soar to heights of 15,000 feet and may travel up to 150 miles a day in search of their next meal. They do not have a good sense of smell so they find their food mostly by their keen eyesight. California condors most often use caves or crevices in rock faces for nest sites. Condor produce very few young, laying only 1 egg which incubates for about 56 days, but they do provide an extensive amount of parental care. The chick learns to fly at about 6 months but will stay with the parents for many more months.

The pictures below were taken in Northern Arizona, on April 5, 2012, where 6 condors are presently found during the winter months - 5 adults and 1 juvenile.

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