This past week, I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon National Park. While there, I saw a rare site: a juvenile and adult California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). This vulture can reach 4 ½ feet long with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet; 25% larger than the more commonly seen Turkey Vulture.
What makes this bird remarkable, beside its size, is that it was nearly driven to extinction. Many millennia ago, it ranged across the entire North American continent. By the time European settlers arrived, it was found mostly in the western part of North America.
During the 20thcentury, California Condor populations declined until extinction became extremely likely. In 1987 all remaining 22 wild birds were captured. These birds formed the breeding stock for a federally sponsored program aimed at reestablishing them in the wild. These condors were bred and their offspring released into the wild. The birds have begun breeding in the wild. Captive birds continue to be released. The population is now expanding.
The birds can sometimes be seen in places like the Grand Canyon but seeing them is still the exception rather than the rule. So, I feel blessed to have been able to see and photograph these magnificent birds.
Note: Please click on caption to see images at higher resolution.