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California Condor

Gymnogyps californianus ORDER: ACCIPITRIFORMES FAMILY: CATHARTIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

The spectacular but endangered California Condor is the largest bird in North America. These superb gliders travel widely to feed on carcasses of deer, pigs, cattle, sea lions, whales, and other animals. Pairs nest in caves high on cliff faces. The population fell to just 22 birds in the 1980s, but there are now some 230 free-flying birds in California, Arizona, and Baja California with another 160 in captivity. Lead poisoning remains a severe threat to their long-term prospects.

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Calls

Condors are usually silent, but can issue a variety of hisses and snorts particularly when defending nest sites. Newborn chicks hiss, wheeze, and grunt at adults.

Other Sounds

Wing movements by these giant birds can generate sounds heard over a half-mile away.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

California Condors nest in remote locations that are hard to access, but they travel widely in search of food. If you’re within range of condors in central California (the Big Sur coast or Pinnacles National Monument), southern California (inland from Ventura in the Sespe wilderness), or around the Grand Canyon, keep your eyes peeled for large, dark soaring birds. Study them closely to make sure they don’t teeter like a vulture, and check their proportions to help rule out buteos, eagles, and small planes.

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By the Thinnest of Margins, Living Bird, Autumn 2013

Get the Lead Out: Ingesting lead bullet fragments has a devastating effect on wildlife—and humans. Story and photos in Living Bird magazine.