The Ventana Wildlife Society, an organization dedicated to releasing captive-bred California Condors since 1997, operates the Big Sur Condor Nest cam. The organization sets up cameras at nests in its sanctuary and occasionally in the wild. 

The birds are most active from late morning to early afternoon. Also, if you see a condor while watching the camera, you are encouraged to track your sighting on Condor Spotter, an online guide that allows you to identify free-flying California Condors via their vinyl wing tags.

Other animal species that may appear on the cameras include mountain lions, bobcats, black-tailed deer, Bald and Golden Eagles, ravens, and bluebirds. 

Where do California Condors live?

California Condors live in the coastal hills and mountains of California, around the Grand Canyon in Arizona and nearby southern Utah, and in the northern Baja California peninsula of Mexico. And in recent years, a few of the big birds have wandered as far as southern Wyoming and central New Mexico. 

The condor’s range during the Pleistocene Era, which ended 10,000 years ago, covered much of North America, but by the early 1800s, it had shrunk to just the Pacific coast. 

What is California Condor’s habitat?

California Condor habitat is mountain areas of southern California and the region near the Grand Canyon. The birds require large open areas of remote country for foraging, roosting, and nesting. 

Foraging habitat includes open grasslands and oak savannah foothills where large animals, like cattle and deer, live. These locations can be far from nesting locations, and condors may travel up to 150 miles per day in search of food. 

Where do California Condor’s nest?

California Condors usually nest in cavities of cliffs and occasionally large trees like coast redwood or giant sequoia. According to All About Birds, condor pairs have multiple nesting locations, and the female will ultimately decide on the site. 

Eggs are laid on the site floor, and the birds will construct loose piles from debris such as rocks and gravel. The piles are about three feet wide and eight inches deep. 

How many eggs do condors lay?

Female California Condors lay one egg per nesting cycle. Young condors can’t fly for the first five to six months of their life and may continue to rely on their parents for another six months after that. The length of the dependence causes the parent birds to skip a nesting cycle before trying again. 

The adult condors may try to lay a second egg if the first one is lost early enough in the breeding season. It takes four to five weeks for a replacement egg to be laid. 

What do California Condors eat?

California Condors eat carrion of land and sea mammals such as deer, cattle, sea lions, and whales. They get calcium from swallowing fragments of bone from the carcasses. 

Condors find food through sight, not smell, or by observing other scavengers from the sky. The birds will scare away other bird species, but they are usually tolerant of each other while feeding. 

The birds can hold up to three pounds of food in their crop (an enlarged part of the esophagus) to help maintain body weight between feeding days. 

How to identify California Condors?

Identify California Condors by their large and broad wings, with long primary feathers making their wingtips look like fingers. While in flight, their body is noticeably bulky, and their head looks small. 

The California Condor is the largest bird species in North America, and both males and females can grow to about 4 feet in length, weigh between 15-20 pounds, and their wingspan can measure over 9 feet. 

Adult condors are all black with white spots under their wings, with naked heads and yellowish-orange necks. Immature condors are grayer with darker heads. The birds reach their adult coloration around age 7. 

Which is bigger, a California Condor or an eagle?

California Condors are bigger than both Golden and Bald Eagles. 

To tell the difference between Golden Eagles and California Condors in flight, notice that eagles do not have continuous white patches under their wings like condors do. 

Look for the white head and white tail feathers of adult Bald Eagles. California Condors have black tail feathers, and their heads are featherless. 

What is the difference between a California Condor and a Turkey Vulture?

There are several differences between California Condors and Turkey Vultures. Condors are much bigger and have black primary and secondary feathers with white streaks, whereas Turkey Vultures have white feathers under their wings with black tips. 

What is the conservation status of California Condors?

The conservation status for California Condors is critically endangered, and while the population is growing, it is still dependent on human conservation efforts. 

The population surpassed the critically endangered threshold in 2019, but BirdLife International won’t consider downlisting the species until 2024 due to a five-year rule about downlisting species. 

The U.S. officially listed the species as endangered in 1967, and there were fewer than 25 remaining by 1982. In 1987, the remaining California Condors were brought into captivity for an intensive conservation and breeding program to save the species. In 1992, captive-bred birds began being introduced to the wild, and by 2008 there were more condors in the wild than in captivity. All California Condors in the wild descend from that original group. 

Every September on National Public Lands Day, The Peregrine Fund releases captive-bred juveniles from a release site at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona.

How many California Condors are left?

There are 504 total California Condors in the world. No fewer than 329 live in the wild, and 175 are in captivity, according to the U.S. Interior Department’s 2020 annual population study

In 2019, the population had 519 birds, 337 of which were in the wild, which means that the population declined in 2020 — the first time since at least 2010.

What killed the California Condor?

Lead poisoning is one of the leading killers among known causes for California Condor deaths, accounting for about half of the total deaths of birds in the wild from 1992 to 2020, according to the federal 2020 annual population study

The birds consume lead by eating carcasses of animals that were killed using lead ammunition. In 2013, California passed a law requiring non-lead ammunition use by hunters. In 2019, the state fully implemented it.

Other common threats to the wild condor population include poison baits, environmental pollutants, and collisions with powerlines and buildings. 

Read more about condors

Species profile: California Condor, an endangered species, after 20 years of recovery efforts
BirdWatching was a source for Jeopardy
North America was once home to tens of thousands of condors
A first for Utah: Two condor nestlings in one summer
Condors to return to the Pacific Northwest
Info from The Peregrine Fund about California Condors 

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