On a recent visit to the Grand Canyon, we stopped to see how the California Condors were doing in Marble Canyon. These birds can have a wing span of 9 ½ feet and weigh up to 26 pounds. They are BIG and magnificent in flight. I spotted two on a ledge and watched them take off down the canyon.
It started to rain as I saw three fly under the bridge below me.
I hung (more than leaning!) over the sides to see if I could get a picture. The birds hopped from strut to strut keeping dryer that me.
They mate for life, lays a single egg every other year, and can live 60 years. A wildlife recovery program brought the California Condor back from the brink of extinction.
The last time a wild California Condor was spotted in the wild in Arizona was 1925. By 1982 the total in California and Arizona had dropped to 22 birds. They were all captured and a captive breeding program was started. You will notice the numbers on the wings that identify the birds. It was so successful that in 1992 in California and in 1996 in Arizona, the condors were released back into the wild. Now there are 58 birds making Arizona their home and the goal is to have 150 birds in each Arizona and California.
Lead ammunition is the biggest problem encountered in this recovery program. The birds ingest the lead when they scavenge dead animals that have been shot. Treatment is expensive and previously involved travel by vehicle to cities with testing and treatment facilities. Recently a treatment center in the Vermillion Cliff area was built and that speeds up the treatment and saves the birds’ lives. Lead bullets fragment when an animal is shot. Since condors feed in groups. large numbers of the birds can be poisoned by the lead bullet fragments. Copper bullets do not fragment and it is more likely that only one bird would be poisoned by the copper bullet instead of the group. That becomes very important when the total Arizona population is only 58 birds! Fish and Game teamed with big game hunters offering free non-lead ammunition. Incidents of lead poisoning declined 40%.
The California Condor is still one of the most endangered birds in the world but it seems that the recovery program is working. There is a spectacular National Audubon Society documentary describing the recovery program and it is worth seeing the extent of work and danger the volunteers of this program went through. http://www.mtv.com/movies/movie/40221/moviemain.jhtml
These are also very good http://www.azgfd.gov/video/CaliforniaCondors.shtml