106. Condors

Adult condor head.
10-foot wingspan.

By the 1980s, the California Condor population was in crisis, and extinction in the wild seemed imminent. The dramatic decline of condors in the 20th century has been attributed to shooting, poisoning, electric power lines, egg collecting, and habitat loss. In 1987, the last wild California Condor was taken into captivity to join the 26 remaining condors in an attempt to bolster the population through a captive breeding program. At that time, it was uncertain whether or not North America's largest flying land bird (by wingspan, 9.5 feet) would ever again soar in the wild.

In 1997, Ventana Wildlife Society began releasing captive-bred California Condors on the Big Sur coast. Because of these efforts, the California Condor population in central California is increasing. Although biologists are encouraged with the progress of recovery for the central California population, Ventana Wildlife Society recognizes the continuing threats these birds face. Condors are scavengers which feed exclusively on carcasses, and they can be poisoned by contaminants in those carcasses. Lead poisoning, as a result of lead bullet fragments in game carcasses, remains foremost among threats. You can help by taking one of our condor viewing tours. You can enjoy seeing condors once again soaring over the California coast while knowing the proceeds are being used to recover this part of our natural heritage. To learn more about Ventana Wildlife Society or the California Condor reintroduction program, visit www.ventanaws.org.