Animal of the Week California Condor

California Condor: Scavenger of the West

‘There are only two animals on the planet that get to fly with the name condor on their wings. It’s the Andrean Condor and the California Condor.  Both of these birds are found in the Americas, but the California Condor is found mostly in California. This critically endangered bird, who’s range was much bigger in the past, has been a center for conservation efforts and has recently started to make a small come back. Conservation biologists, zoo keepers, and researchers have put in great effort to help this striking bird. They have recently reintroduced the species into Arizona and Utah.

What do they eat?

These large birds look like they might be a ferocious predator, but they are not. California Condors are scavengers and they fly until they spot any dead, rotting carcasses, called carrion. They are not usually picky eaters and have been seen eating a wide variety of dead animals including: deer, bears, cattle, horses, pigs, donkeys, and even sea lions! You might think a California Condor could smell these rotting animals from miles away, but they actually can’t smell. In fact, they fly really high into the sky and use their great eyesight to spot them from far away. Because of the food they specialize in they can go up to two weeks without eating sometimes! How crazy is that defenders?

What caused their populations to decline?

There were many factors that led to the decline of the California Condor population. One of the most well known is lead poisoning. When shot with lead bullets, animals that were killed, but not retrieved by hunters were often eaten by other animals, such as condors. Since California Condors are scavengers they end up spotting the animals that have been and eating them. After feeding on them, the birds will get lead poisoning and eventually die. Even after lead ammunition has been banned there are still signs of condors and other animals with lead toxicity in their blood.

However, the list of things that caused the decline of these majestic birds doesn’t stop there. Reports show that California Condor babies would eat trash causing babies to die. Their habitats were also being destroyed, and they were being poached for the pet trade, along with their eggs. Some humans even shot them FOR FUN, in numbers that were not sustainable for them to survive. When you take these factors and combine that with the California Condor’s clutch size, you have a recipe for species extinction.

Do California Condors make good pets?

Everyone is always asking us what kinds of animals make good pets and the California Condor is NOT an animal on the list of good pets. There are so many reasons why the California Condors do not make good pets. To start, the California Condor is endangered! Any endangered animal should only be in captivity for the purposes of supporting the future populations of the species. When in captivity these birds live in very specialized zoos that work towards the proper care and treatment of these animals. These are also incredibly large birds with very specific diets. Caring for them in captivity can be hard, even for experts. Add all these factors to the specific habitats and nesting spots they prefer to use and you have a bird with very detailed care requirements. So, if you are looking for a pet bird then you may want to consider a chicken.

Do California Condors have the longest wingspan?

Cali Condors are a relatively large bird in comparison to things like passerine birds. When sizing up against the largest birds in the world, California Condors are not even in the top 10 list. In a tie with many other birds, this species’s wingspan reaches to about 10ft long! The Wandering Albatross is the bird with the longest wingspan, which reaches to about 12 ft in length. The Wandering Albatross is followed in a close second by the Great White Pelican which also reaches about 12 ft in overall wingspan. The top 15 birds with the largest wingspan are incredibly beautiful and highly specialized, including the California Condor!

Thanks for reading defenders! Don’t forget we have an awesome animal podcast called The Squadcast that you can listen to right on iTunes and Spotify. This way you can stay learning anytime, all you need is a pair of headphones or speakers. If you want to learn about birds then head to our bird center, and if you are looking for fun animal activities for children to do at home then head to the games and activities center to see everything Critter Squad Wildlife Defenders has to offer!




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