10 Amazing Facts About California Condors

California Condor in Wild

California Condors are incredibly majestic birds found in the American states of California, Utah, Arizona, and in the Mexican state of Baja California. They can be easily identified with their uniform black mane except for a few strips of white on its underside. These birds glide gracefully at great heights spreading their enormous wings across the sky. Their average lifespan is around 60 years, making them one of the world’s longest-living birds.

While working on captive breeding techniques for the birds, conservation scientists have found that California Condors can produce asexually. Though this could be thought of as a means of survival, the birds produced asexually did not live long, only for a span of 10 years. Adults that consume large amounts of carrion, decaying animals, weigh 17-25 pounds with a height of about 109-149 centimeters. Here are some facts and attributes associated with these magnificent creatures.

10 Amazing Facts About California Condors

1. California Condors consume large amounts of carrion.

Since California Condors are part of the vulture family, they are scavengers as they feed on rotting flesh. Their sharp ivory bills help them devour the carrion, which is the decaying flesh of animals. They have a preference for the flesh of huge mammals like elephants, deer, and cattle. California Condors may also feed on smaller mammals like rabbits and rodents and even aquatic mammals like whales and sea lions. They can eat up to 3-4 pounds of flesh in a single sitting and may not need to eat food for days after that.

2. California Condors are conscious about keeping clean.

California Condors are scrupulous in nature and are very particular about cleaning themselves especially after eating. They can be seen preening and drying themselves for hours by ponds. If there is no water available, they depend on rocks and plants to tidy themselves.

3.Their wingspan is about 10 feet long!

It’s a marvel to witness California Condors fly with a wide-reaching wingspan of 10 feet, flying as high as 15 feet and a speed of 90 km/h. Their wingspan is the highest amongst the North American birds. These creatures often get mistaken for aircraft, given how massive they look soaring up in the sky. They can glide for great distances without having to flap their wing. It’s the upturned tips of their feathered wings that reduces drag, making it possible for them to cover large grounds in search of prey.

4. California Condors almost became extinct!

California Condors withstood the Ice Age Extinction but became extinct in their natural habitat due to poaching, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning. Subsequently, they were placed in the First Class of 1967, the first list released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services was to give endangered species federal protection as a part of the conservation programs. So all the remaining Condors, barely 22 in number, were captured by the Government for captive breeding. Once they saw an increase in numbers, the scientists focused on releasing the birds back into the wild starting in 1992.

5. California Condors use higher perches.

Generally, the nests of these birds are found in crevices, faces of caves, or in steep cliffs. Sometimes these nests can be found in cavities at the top of trees. Since they are large birds, they have difficulty taking off into the air. Therefore, they usually nest in high perches which helps them soar high.

6. California Condors poop to beat the heat!

When there’s a surge in temperature, California Condors don’t sweat to keep cool as we do. Instead, they poop on their legs, a process referred to as urohydrosis. Despite how repulsive it might sound, it is an effective way for them to reduce their body temperature. 

7. California Condors are social feeders.

Amongst their groups, they have a well-structured social hierarchy to maintain order and competition. They communicate with one another through means of various body postures. They are generally said to be non-aggressive towards one another. Although dominant birds can emerge in the pack, they are largely communal creatures who roost, take baths and eat together.

8. Once together, they remain soulmates for life.

California Condors usually reach sexual maturity within 6-8 years after they’re born. Once they mate, they remain partners for life. After, the males attain sexual maturity, they try to attract potential mates by puffing out the feathers on their neck and turning their head a pinkish-red color. Once the females, accept the proposal, they lower their heads. They even engage in displays of aerial acrobatics during the courtship period. They also venture out together in search of a potential home for breeding and nesting with the final decision being made on the female.

9. Currently, there are only 516 California Condors.

Though the conservation efforts have largely proven to be successful with the increase in numbers, they are still critically endangered. The cause for concern is mainly attributed to lead poisoning. Since California Condors are scavengers, they eat the carcasses of dead animals instead of hunting their own prey. These days, the animal remains that they feed on are those shot and left behind by hunters and poachers, out in the open. These remains are contaminated with lead shots the bullet used to kill them, thereby causing lead poisoning in the Condors which eat them. Consequently, conservation efforts during the recent years in California have been focused on using non-lead bullets in the zones these species usually inhabit. The other causes for their dwindling numbers can be attributed to habitat destruction, poaching, and collision with power lines.

10. California Condors are considered sacred!

The Native Americans, specifically the California Indian and the Andean tribes, who inhabited the vast, open spaces of the West considered the California Condors to be sacred. They believed the flapping of its wings brought the thunder in the sky and hence, referred to it as the thunderbird. Additionally, the feathers of these birds were used in traditional
medicinal events of the tribes.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying California Condors

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing California Condors are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

Please Share to Help Us Get Kids Bird Watching