It’s bald, with a spiky-feathered collar and you may see its 9-foot wings outstretched high in the sky or perched contentedly in a large tree. What is it? It may be the largest flying bird in North America – the California condor.
The first California condor to fly in San Diego County skies since 1910 was spotted in April 2007 when the female bird took a day trip north from Baja California before returning to Mexico. As condors expand their range, the California Condor Recovery Program is asking for information about possible condor sightings. A newly created Website, “California Condor Conservation,” includes graphics and images to help bird watchers determine if they are one of the few lucky ones who have seen a California condor in the wild.
Condor sightings can easily be reported by following the link at www.cacondorconservation.org. The Recovery Program wants to know what bird was spotted and what it was doing. One of the best ways to know if you’re looking at a condor is by looking for a numbered tag on its wing. All wild condors are marked with identification tags on each wing that indicate which of the more than 140 free flying condors have been spotted.
The condor was near extinction in the 1980s when the world population of this species hit a low of 22 individuals. Since then, thanks to a multi-agency effort, the condor now numbers near 300 birds. A successful breeding program allowed the Recovery Program to release birds in California, Arizona and in Baja California, Mexico.
Turkey vultures and golden eagles are often confused for condors. A graphic on the Website shows the difference between these species. So if you’ve seen a condor, report it.
The California Condor Recovery Program is built upon a foundation of private and public partnerships. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implements the recovery program in partnership with other U.S. and Mexican government agencies, the Zoological Society of San Diego, Los Angeles Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Oregon Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, Ventana Wilderness Society and the National Park Service among others.
The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is operated by the not-for-profit Zoological Society of San Diego. The Zoological Society, dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats, engages in conservation and research work around the globe and is responsible for maintaining accredited horticultural, animal, library, and photo collections. The Zoological Society also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park (more than half of which has been set aside as protected native species habitat) and the center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES). The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by the Foundation for the Zoological Society of San Diego.