The California Condor
The California Condor is the largest flying bird in North
America, with a body length of forty-three to fifty-two
inches and a wingspan of up to nine and one half feet. It is
also the most endangered bird on the earth.
The California Condor is a very large soaring bird with long
broad wings. They have white feathers along the front edge
of their wings and a short broad tail. They have a yellow to
reddish-orange head, (color depending on their emotional
state), that is bare of feathers like the heads of other
scavenging birds, and a frill of black feathers around the
base of the neck.
The body is black, and the wings have a large white triangle
on the underside. When they are immature they look similar
to the adults except they have a darker bald head and have
grayish patches on the edges of their wings.
Condors fly mostly by gliding and rarely flap their wings
except to land or take off. They can cover large amounts of
distance every day once they can get aloft, but taking off
requires either a high spot from which to jump or a long
clear takeoff area.
When in flight these birds have been mistaken as Golden
Eagles but the Golden Eagle is smaller and has feathers on
its head. The Condor has also been mistaken as a Turkey
Vulture but the Turkey Vulture flies with its wings held up
in a vee shape and the Condor does not.
The California Condor is a scavenger and has no problem
taking carrion away from smaller scavenger birds, the only
exception being the Golden Eagle which is very aggressive,
has very sharp talons, and will not allow this activity to
occur, even though the Condor weighs twice as much as the
The California Condor lays just one egg in a brood. The
young hatchling is completely dependent upon its parents for
the first year. Because of this Condors will usually only
pair off and breed every other year. A young Condor doesn't
breed until it is six to eight years of age. This is the
same time when they get their adult feather colorations.
The California Condor nests in the American Southwest in
scrubby chaparral to forested mountainous regions that have
winter snowfalls. They forage in open grasslands usually. In
recent years the highly endangered wild population has been
supplemented with the release of captive-bred Condors in
Arizona and California, and their numbers have increased
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