Natural History - Condors

 "...To establish self-sustaining populations of California Condors through captive propagation, release, and management with the ultimate goal of removing the species from the Endangered Species List."
                 - California Condor Restoration Project Goal

The Peregrine Fund released the first condors into Arizona from the Vermilion Cliffs in December 1996. Since that time, the Arizona Condor Reintroduction Program has been very successful. In November 2003, a condor chick successfully fledged in the Grand Canyon, an event that hasn’t been seen in the wild in recorded human history.

Glen Canyon Natural History Association is proud to assist the Peregrine Fund by providing educational opportunities at our Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center, where condors are often viewed during the spring months.

California Condor Fact Sheet

Scientific Name: Gymnogyps californianus

Population: Low, 22 individuals in 1982

Current Population: 414 individuals (March 2014)

  • Wild California Condor Population: 232
    • Arizona: 72
    • Southern California: 72
    • Central California: 59
    • Baja California: 29
  • California Condors in Field Pens Awaiting Release: 19
    • Arizona: 6
    • Southern California: 7
    • Central California: 3
    • Baja California: 2 + 1 Mentor Bird
  • Captive Population of California Condors: 163
    • World Center for Birds of Prey: 55
    • San Diego Safari Park: 30
    • San Diego Zoo: 3
    • Los Angeles Zoo: 27
    • Santa Barbara Zoo: 5
    • Oregon Zoo: 41
    • Chapultepec Zoo (Mexico City): 2

Life span: Unknown, possibly up to 60 years.

Wingspan: Up to 9.5 feet (3 meters)

Weight: Averages 16-23 pounds

Body Length: 46 to 55 inches

Range: Occurred historically from southern British Columbia to northern Baja California and in other parts of the southwestern United States.

Maturity: Condors reach sexual maturity and attain adult plumage and coloration by 5-6 years of age. Breeding is likely between 6-8 years of age.

Reproduction: One egg every other year if nesting cycle is successful. Instead of having many young and gambling that a few will survive, the condor produces very few young and provides an extensive amount of parental care. Average incubation period for a condor egg is about 56 days.

Nest Site: Usually in a cave on a cliff or a crevice among boulders on a steep slope.

Young: Nestlings fledge (leave nest) full grown at six months of age, however, historically juvenile condors may be dependant on their parents for more that a year. Reintroduced condors are released on their own and must learn to forage and survive alone.

Sexes: There is no sexual dimorphism (observable difference in size or appearance) between males and females.

Feeding: Condors are strict scavengers. Unlike Turkey Vultures, condors do not have an exceptional sense of smell. They instead find their food visually, often by investigating the activity of ravens, coyotes, eagles, and other scavengers. Without the guidance of their parents, young inexperienced juvenile condors may also investigate the activity of humans. As young condors learn and mature this human directed curiosity diminishes.

Reasons for decline: The main reason for the decline of the condors was an unsustainable mortality rate of free-flying birds combined with a naturally low reproductive rate. Most deaths in recent years have been directly or indirectly related to human activity. Shootings, poisoning, lead poisoning, and collisions with power lines are considered the condors’ major threats.

Identification points to look for: Numbered wing tags, white or mottled triangle under wing, no feathers on head, and head color black in juveniles or orange/pink in adults, not dark red as in Turkey Vultures.

If You Encounter a California Condor

Please enjoy the birds from a distance. Do not approach or attempt to feed a condor. If a condor approaches you, or you observe anyone harassing or harming a condor, immediately notify:

    The Peregrine Fund - (928) 355-2270
    Arizona Game & Fish - (928) 774-5045
    BLM - (435) 688-3200
    National Park Service - (928) 638-7756

Never shoot at or throw objects at a condor. The California Condor, hawks, eagles, vultures, and owls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty and the condor is also protected under Endangered Species Act. Under these acts it is illegal to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or attempt to do any of these activities to a bird of prey.

If you should observe a condor please report your sighting to The Peregrine Fund biologists at (928) 355-2270 or e-mail them at You can also share your sitings on Facebook. Helpful information would include date, time, location, number of birds observed, and wing tag numbers if possible.