10 Fascinating California Condor Facts You Should Know

Updated: Sep. 12, 2023

Learn how the California condor came back from the brink of extinction. Plus, learn where these large birds live and where they nest.

The California condor is a special species, but some extra help is needed to keep the birds from going extinct. Learn fascinating facts about these tough fliers.

California Condors Are Endangered

Adult California condorJustin Hofman/Alamy Stock Photo
Adult California condor

Because of threats to them that included habitat loss, power-line collisions and lead poisoning, California condors were first listed as endangered in 1967.

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Wild Condors Were Brought into Captivity

Sadly, only 27 California condors remained in the wild by the mid-1980s. As a drastic measure to save the species and prevent the birds from going extinct, they were all captured and brought into captive-breeding programs at that time.

California Condors Are Making a Comeback

California condor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Courtesy Thomas Maxfeldt
California condor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

There is some good news, though, about the future of these birds! Though they’re still critically endangered, about 500 California condors are around now.

Even better: Many of them are flying out in the wild once again, while others remain in captive-breeding programs.

Find California Condors Out West

After the important conservation efforts, California condors were reintroduced to the wild in 1992 in three different locations: California, Arizona and Baja, Mexico. Today, you can see these birds in New Mexico, Utah and Nevada.

Learn about more desert birds of the Southwest.

California Condors Are Scavengers

These resourceful birds are capable of surviving for several days without eating, but when they do, they might ingest more than 3 pounds of carrion (the flesh of dead animals).

They Can Travel Long Distances

vulture bird California Condor in Flight at Pinnacles National ParkVicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images

Quite the impressive soarers, California condors may log more than 200 miles per day in the air.

Not sure which bird you’re seeing in the air? Follow our hawk identification guide.

California Condors Are Quite Large

California condor in the wildBarbara Ash/Shutterstock
In the 1980s less than 30 California condors lived in the wild

With a wingspan of more than 9 feet (and weighing around 20 pounds), the California condor is the largest wild bird in North America.

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Condors Can Live for Decades

California condors aren’t just resourceful—they’re also known to live a long time! Some can even live up to 60 years in the wild.

Get the answer: How long do hummingbirds live?

California Condor Chicks Are Special

Southwest Faces Severe Drought ConditionsDavid McNew/Getty Images
A California condor chick that will soon fly for the first time

California condors lay only one egg at a time. The egg then takes 57 days to hatch. Both parents incubate the egg and raise the chick. Young California condors also stick with their parents for quite a long time, requiring parental care for around a year.

These Birds Nest Up High

California Condor sitting on a rockWeili Li/Getty Images

California condors aren’t afraid of heights. They nest in natural cavities in cliffs up to 6,000 feet in elevation.

Next, check out these amazing facts about bald eagles.