California Condor

Gymnogyps californianus Order: Accipitriformes Family: Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
Gymnogyps californianus Order: Accipitriformes Family: Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

In 1986, the last wild condor was removed from the wild to be treated for high blood lead levels. Thanks to captive breeding programs, condors are once again breeding in the wild, in California and in and near the Grand Canyon. I went to Arizona to see one for my 60th birthday, on 11/11/11.

For a while after birds were reintroduced, they weren’t “countable” by American Birding Association rules (yeah–my lifer wasn’t “countable” at the time!), but now reintroduced endangered birds still requiring some intervention from humans to protect their small populations are countable again—not that any of this matters to anyone except competitive birders. The Ventana Wildlife Society monitors the California population. My best photos of this species were taken while I was attending the Monterey Bay Birding Festival and attended a field trip sponsored and led by the Ventana Wildlife Society during my Big Year, and then in 2019 when Russ and I went to California together and drove the coast on our own.

The California Condor has an unhappy distinction and entry in Guinness World Records:

California Condor: Rarest bird of prey. According to BirdLife International 2006 and the IUCN Red List 2007 one of the rarest birds of prey is the Californian condor (Gymnogyps californianus) which is classified as Critically Endanged. Following the remaining birds total removal from the wild into captivity in 1987, a conservation programme was enacted, meaning the species has been reintroduced into the wild, and a tiny population now exists.

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