Difference between revisions of "California Condor"

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[[File:California_condor_FWS_thumb.jpg|160x200px|thumb|right|California condor ('''G. californianus''')]]
[[File:California_condor_FWS_thumb.jpg|160x200px|thumb|right|California condor (''Gymnogyps californianus'')]]
A [[Species emphasized in environmental management in California's Central Coast Region|species summary]] by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at [http://csumb.edu CSUMB].  
A [[Species emphasized in environmental management in California's Central Coast Region|species summary]] by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at [http://csumb.edu CSUMB].  

Revision as of 22:27, 2 March 2021

California condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

A species summary by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Cathartiformes
Family Cathartidae
Genus Gymnogyps
Species G. californianus

Life History

The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)(CC) is the largest of the North American vultures and also the largest soaring land bird of the continent[1]. CC are thought to live up to 60 or 70 yrs. Like many other long lived species CC reach sexual maturity later in life. Age of first successful breeding is thought to be between 6-8 yrs, with some 5 yr females laying infertile eggs in captivity[1]. Young condors usually stay in their natal home range for a year after they fledge and are dependent on their parents during this time. Home ranges include mountainous areas that serve as roosting and nesting sites, as well as lower elevation foothills that serve as foraging grounds. Young adult and immature condors that are nonbreeding tend to be more transient, not staying within a defined home range[1].

CC breed in pairs and can remain in breeding pairs on a multiyear basis. New pair formation occurs in late fall and early winter. Pairs produce single-egged broods between January and April. Incubation averages 57 days and eggs hatch between March and June. Fledging occurs 5-6 months after hatching and dependence on parents continues for another 6 months[1].


Historical range

Historical records and remains indicate that the CC was once found across the United States, as well as southern Canada and northern Mexico.[1]. By the mid-20th century the CC was largely confined to southern California. However, due to conservation efforts the CC is now found in the Big Sur Region and once again in Arizona, Mexico, and southern Utah.


As the historical range of CC alludes, the species is capable of adapting to various habitats and climates. Notwithstanding, reliable air movement has been identified as a driver in habitat selection. Due to the large size of the CC, uplift plays a roll in the species ability to take flight. CC uses thermal winds for foraging, and although the CC is surprisingly agile on the ground, they prefer to soar several hundred meters above it[1]. Unlike Turkey Vultures, which use their heightened sense of smell to locate carcasses, the CC uses its keen eyesight. Because they use eyesight to find carcasses they prefer to forage in open habitats, such as grasslands, montane grasslands, non-dense woodlands, and coastlines[1]. Presence of adequate food is also an important driver of CC habitat selection. Using thermal winds they will soar through the air for hours searching for carcasses or other scavengers who have found a meal, then using their large size dominate the competition[1].

Though the CC utilizes open areas for foraging, nesting and roosting can take place 40km away in higher elevation scrubby chaparral, forest montane, cavities within coastal redwoods and giant sequoias, and overhung ledges on cliffs. Key characteristics tend to be cover from the elements and slopes that allow for easy approach from the air[1].

The diet of the CC consists mainly of mammalian carrion, with the occasional bird or reptile remains found in nests. CC historically fed on dead deer, ground squirrels, and other wild game, but as people encroached on their range extirpating species they shifted their diets toward domestic animals. Currently, the diet of CC ranges from cattle, sheep, and horses, to deer, ground squirrels, and marine mammals that washup along the coastline[1].


Conservation effort

The California Condor is under the critically endangered status. In 1987 there were only 27 Condors in the world. A captive breeding program, launched in 1980, had amazing success, allowing the reintroduction in 1992. By the end of the decade, there were 161 condors in the world. As of 2021, there are 518 California Condors in the wild but are still on the critically endangered species list.

California banned the use of lead ammunition in 2013, one of the leading threats to the California Condor.

Conservation groups

the Conservancy for the Range of the Condor is seeking to establish the Range of the Condor National Heritage Area.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Finkelstein M, Kuspa Z, Snyder NF, Schmitt NJ. California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Birds of the World. 2020 Mar 4 [accessed 2021 Feb 28]. https://birdsoftheworld.org


This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.