Sunday, July 29, 2012
C is for Condor
A Californian Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) flying over the Grand Canyon. It's a juvenile bird and doesn not yet have the red face of an adult.
In 1987, only 22 Calfifornian Condors were left worldwide, the species was nearly wiped out by habitat destruction, (illegal) hunting, and lead poisoning from ingesting lead pellets with the carrion they feed on. The remaining birds were put into a breeding program. Today, there are 405 birds, with 226 of them in the wild. All of them carry number tags for easy identification.
Californian Condors are the largest North American birds with a wingspan of almost ten ft/three metres and a weight of up to fourteen kilogram, the average condor weighs around nine.
They feed on carrion and can travel hundreds of miles in search of food. Unlike turkey vultures, they have almost no sense of smell and either spot their food on the ground or are on the lookout for other birds circling in the air over a carcass. With their huge size, they can chase away almost every other scavenger, bird or mammal.
You can see the full crop in this photos. Note the white underside of the wing - that's a good way to tell condors from Golden Eagles, apart from sheer size of course, but that can be difficult to estimate when the birds are far away.
Condors mate for life and can reach an age of sixty years. They usually live in larger groups with a well-establishes hierachy. Each year, a pair raises one chick. If the egg goes missing, another is layed and so it's common for breeding programs to take that first egg for hand-rearing in captivity using a hand puppet to prevent the chick from getting used to humans.
In flight, they are elegant and graceful birds and can glide for miles without once flaping their wings. Seeing them fly over the Gand Canyon was quite a sight. There was a group of five birds who used the afternoon heat and the resulting air currents to easily gain height by circling.
A post for I'd Rather B Birdin' and ABC Wednesday
Sources and further information:
Condor Conservation - if you see a Californian Condor, send them a mail!
Internet Bird Collection
Condor Cam of the San Diego Zoo