Gymnogyps californianus - (Shaw, 1797)
California Condor
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Gymnogyps californianus (Shaw, 1797) (TSN 175274)
French Common Names: Condor de Californie
Spanish Common Names: Cóndor Californiano
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101273
Element Code: ABNKA03010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Image 12049

Public Domain

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Cathartiformes Cathartidae Gymnogyps
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Gymnogyps californianus
Taxonomic Comments: This species was transferred to Ciconiiformes (AOU 1998) but subsequently was tentatively returned to the order Falconiformes after re-evaluation of the reasons for the earlier change. Further, some genetic studies (Cracraft et al. 2004, Fain and Houde 2004, Ericson et al. 2006) indicate that New World vultures are not closely related to storks, although their precise phylogenetic relationship to the Falconiformes is yet undetermined (AOU 2007).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1
Global Status Last Reviewed: 27Aug2013
Global Status Last Changed: 01Nov2000
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Historically widespread in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Mexico, declined to extirpation in the wild by the 1980s; captive breeding increased the number of individuals and allowed releases; reintroduction efforts are in progress in California, Arizona, and Baja California, with limited breeding and fledging success; reestablishment of self-sustaining wild breeding populations is uncertain, in part because of environmental perils such as lead poisoning and trash ingestion that are difficult to manage.
Nation: United States
National Status: N1 (19Mar1997)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Arizona (SX,S1), California (S1), Oregon (SX), Washington (SX)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE, XN
Comments on USESA: USFWS (16 October 1996, Federal Register 61(201):54044-54060) designated the planned reintroduced population in northern Arizona/southern Utah as a nonessential experimental (XN) population; listed as Endangered elsewhere in the U.S. (not in Mexico).
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R8 - California-Nevada
IUCN Red List Category: CR - Critically endangered
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix I

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: California condors were widely distributed in North America during the late Pleistocene era (approximately 50,000-10,000 years before present), with records from Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, New York, and Mexico. At the time of the arrival of Russian and Euro-American explorers, condors occurred only in western North America from British Columbia, Canada, to Baja California, Mexico, and inland to the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, with occasional observations farther east. California condors were observed in the Pacific Northwest until the early 1900s, and in Baja California until the 1930s. Source: USFWS (2013, which see for original literature citations).

By about 1950, the species was restricted to southern California prior to extirpation from wild in 1987, when the last remaining wild condors were removed from the wild for captive breeding. Reintroductions in California, northern Arizona, and the Sierra San Pedro Martir in northern Baja California have led to very limited renewed nesting in each area. Some of the birds released in northern Arizona range into southern Utah and rarely as far north as southern Wyoming and Colorado.

Range extent (extent of occurrence) is roughly based on the regularly used nesting and foraging areas as of 2012 (see map in USFWS 2013).

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5
Number of Occurrences Comments: The only extant occurrences are the few areas where the species has been reintroduced in California, Arizona, and Baja California.

Population Size: 1 - 50 individuals
Population Size Comments: As of the end of December 2012, the population consisted of 404 individuals, of which 235 were free-flying wild birds distributed among the five release sites in California, Arizona, and northern Baja California; of the wild birds, 129 were in California, 78 in Arizona, and 28 in Baja California (USFWS 2013). Only a small number of the wild birds are active breeders (12 active breeding pairs in California, 6 in Arizona) (USFWS 2013).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: None (zero)
Viability/Integrity Comments: Currently, none of the reintroduced populations can be regarded as having good viability in the absence of ongoing releases of captive-reared condors and intensive management.

Overall Threat Impact: Very high
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Decline in wild population prior to 1987 was due to lead and cyanide poisoning (lead poisoning from ingestion of bullets in hunter-killed carcasses); shooting; removal from wild of eggs, young, and adults for captive breeding; and unknown causes.

Recovery of the California condor is constrained by the current anthropogenic causes of mortality, primarily lead contamination from prey shot with lead ammunition (Finkelstein et al. 2012, Rideout et al. 2012). Further, reproductive success has been hampered by the presence of microtrash in the environment and the effects of DDT/DDE in coastal populations, and exposure to lead in breeding adults may cause nest failure (USFWS 2013).

A large proportion of reintroduced condors and condor nestling have died from anthropogenic causes (e.g., collisions with power lines, ingestion of toxins). As of 2012, mortality from lead poisoning continued to be a significant threat. In California, chick mortality resulting from ingestion of anthropogenic material (trash) is a serious concern. In fact, Mee et al. (2007) concluded that junk ingestion has been the primary cause of nest failure in the reintroduced condor population and threatens the reestablishment of a viable breeding population in southern California.

Short-term Trend Comments: The total population increased from 22 in 1982 to around 404 in 2012. However, the increase occurred primarily as a result of captive breeding and intensive management rather than from natural population growth.

Long-term Trend: Decline of >90%
Long-term Trend Comments: Over the long term, the species has declined greatly in range extent, area of occupancy, number of subpopulations, and population size.

Apparently the species was rare and declining even in the late 1800s. The population declined greatly between the late 1960s and early 1980s, though count data for that period are problematic. Population reached a low of 22 in 1982, when captures began to establish a captive breeding program. No individuals remained in the wild by the late 1980s. Since then the number of wild birds has increased to 235 (December 2012).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Highly vulnerable
Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Low breeding rate and slow maturation.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Lead hazard needs to be reduced if the probability of successful reintroduction is to be maximized (Pattee et al. 1990). In 2008, a new regulation went into effect in California requiring hunters to use only non-lead ammunition when hunting big game or coyotes in the endangered California condor's habitat.

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) California condors were widely distributed in North America during the late Pleistocene era (approximately 50,000-10,000 years before present), with records from Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, New York, and Mexico. At the time of the arrival of Russian and Euro-American explorers, condors occurred only in western North America from British Columbia, Canada, to Baja California, Mexico, and inland to the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, with occasional observations farther east. California condors were observed in the Pacific Northwest until the early 1900s, and in Baja California until the 1930s. Source: USFWS (2013, which see for original literature citations).

By about 1950, the species was restricted to southern California prior to extirpation from wild in 1987, when the last remaining wild condors were removed from the wild for captive breeding. Reintroductions in California, northern Arizona, and the Sierra San Pedro Martir in northern Baja California have led to very limited renewed nesting in each area. Some of the birds released in northern Arizona range into southern Utah and rarely as far north as southern Wyoming and Colorado.

Range extent (extent of occurrence) is roughly based on the regularly used nesting and foraging areas as of 2012 (see map in USFWS 2013).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZextirpatednative and exotic, CA, ORextirpated, WAextirpated

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; NatureServe, 2005


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Kern (06029), Los Angeles (06037), San Benito (06069), San Luis Obispo (06079)*, Santa Barbara (06083)*, Tulare (06107)*, Ventura (06111)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
18 Middle Kern-Upper Tehachapi- (18030003)+, Upper Tule (18030006)+*, Upper Kaweah (18030007)+*, Pajaro (18060002)+, Carrizo Plain (18060003)+*, Estrella (18060004)+*, Salinas (18060005)+, Central Coastal (18060006)+*, Cuyama (18060007)+*, Santa Maria (18060008)+*, Santa Ynez (18060010)+*, Ventura (18070101)+*, Santa Clara (18070102)+, Antelope-Fremont Valleys (18090206)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A huge soaring bird with a bare head.
Reproduction Comments: Egg laying occurs mainly in February-March (sometimes through early May). Lays clutch of 1 egg every other year, sometimes in consecutive years. Incubation lasts 8 weeks, by both sexes. Young fly at about 5-6 months, may be partially dependent on parents for up to a year. Sexually mature in 5-7 years, may live 45 years.
Ecology Comments: Variably social.
Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: May forage 56 kilometers or more from roost or nest site (Koford 1953).

Sometimes ranges over 200 km in a single day (Meretsky and Snyder 1992).

Breeding pairs tend to forage most frequently within 70 km of nest, occasionally as far away as 180 km; nonbreeders forage more widely (Meretsky and Snyder 1992).

Terrestrial Habitat(s): Aerial, Cliff, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: Usual habitat is mountainous country at low and moderate elevations, especially rocky and brushy areas with cliffs available for nest sites, with foraging habitat encompassing grasslands, oak savannas, mountain plateaus, ridges, and canyons (AOU 1983). Condors often roost in snags or tall open-branched trees near important foraging grounds (Matthews and Moseley 1990).

Egg deposition occurs on the floors of cliff cavities or caves, in crevices among boulders on steep slopes, or (probably rarely) in cavities in giant sequoia trees. Most nest sites are at elevations of 600-1,000 meters. Individual females generally change their nest site between successive nestings (Snyder et al. 1986, Palmer 1988); however, Merestsky and Snyder (1992) reported that nesting areas remained stable over the years.

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore
Food Comments: Carrion; feeds primarily on a variety of small, medium and large mammal carcasses, including those of weasels, kangaroo rats, sheep, cattle, deer, ground squirrels, horses, coyotes, rabbits, etc. (Collins et al. 2000; Terres 1980). Apparently very few birds and reptiles are scavenged (Collins et al. 2000). May eat 1-1.3 kg of meat/day (Terres 1980). Prefers fresh meat. Feeds on ground. Requires fairly open terrain for feeding (to facilitate take-offs and landings). Regularly locates food by presence of eagles and ravens (Matthews and Moseley 1990).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: Often leaves roost 3-5 hours after sunrise, commonly returns to roost 2-5 hours before sunset; may not fly at all on foggy or rainy days. (Palmer 1988).
Length: 119 centimeters
Weight: 10104 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Continued releases and intensive management will be required to sustain and grow the populations into the future until the leading cause of mortality, lead contamination, is resolved in all three of the wild populations (Finkelstein et al. 2012).

Needed conservation actions include: development of effective responses to environmental contaminants, including lead, DDT/DDE, and microtrash; planning for additional release sites if found feasible and desirable; managing program growth and recordkeeping that results from the continued captive breeding, release, and management of condors in the wild; developing consistent and structured health, veterinary, and animal management protocols and standards (USFWS 2013).

A better understanding of habitat loss and the development of models to evaluate habitat needs for a future self-sufficient population will be important to the long-range independence of the population (USFWS 2013). Integral to understanding the habitat needs will be a better, more thorough, species-specific evaluation of the potential impacts of climate change (USFWS 2013).

Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Foraging area, Nest site, Roost site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of breeding (including historical); and potential recurring breeding at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs with occupied nests in appropriate habitat. Occurrence includes not only the nest sites, but also the surrounding areas used for feeding during the nesting season.
Separation Barriers: None.
Alternate Separation Procedure: Each of the reintroduction areas should be treated as a single, separate occurrence.
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 20 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: A conservative figure (see Separation Justification).
Date: 09Sep2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 27Aug2013
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 21Oct2008
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.

  • BirdLife International. 2004b. Threatened birds of the world 2004. CD ROM. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

  • California Department of Fish and Game (CDF&G). 1990. 1989 annual report on the status of California's state listed threatened and endangered plants and animals. 188 pp.

  • Collar, N. J., L. P. Gonzaga, N. Krabbe, A. Madroño-Nieto, L. G. Naranjo, T. A. Parker III, and D. C. Wege. 1992. Threatened Birds of the Americas. The ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. 3rd edition, Part 2. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, UK.

  • Collins, P. W., N. F. R. Snyder, and S. D. Emslie. 2000. Faunal remains in California Condor nest caves. Condor 102:222-227.

  • Cracraft, J., F. K. Barker, M. Braun, J. Harshman, G. J. Dyke, J. Feinstein, S. Stanley, A. Cibois, P. Schikler, P. Beresford, and others. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships among modern birds (Neornithes): Toward an avian tree of life. Pages 468-489 in Assembling the Tree of Life (J. Cracraft and M. J. Donoghue, Eds.). Oxford University Press, United Kingdom.

  • DeBlieu, J. 1991. Remodeling the condor. New York Times Magazine, 18 November 1991.

  • Dennis, B., P. L. Munholland, and J. M. Scott. 1991. Estimation of growth and extinction parameters for endangered species. Ecological Monographs 61:115-143.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in Jeopardy: the Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the United States and Canada, Including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 259 pp.

  • Erickson, R. C., and J. W. Carpenter. 1983. Captive condor propagation and recommended release procedures. Pages 385- 399 in Wilbur, S. R., and J. A. Jackson, eds. Vulture biology and management. Univ. California Press, Berkeley.

  • Ericson, P. G. P., C. L. Anderson, T. Britton, A. Elzanowski, U. S. Johansson, M. Källerrsjö, J. I. Ohlson, T. J. Parsons, D. Zuccon, and G. Mayr. 2006. Diversification of Neoaves: Integration of molecular sequence data and fossils. Biology Letters 2:543-547.

  • Fain, M. G., and P. Houde. 2004. Parallel radiations in the primary clades of birds. Evolution 58:2558-2573.

  • Finkelstein, M. E., D. F. Doak, D. George, J. Burnett, J. Brandt, M. Church, J. Grantham, and
    D. R. Smith. 2012. Lead poisoning and the deceptive recovery of the critically endangered California condor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1203141109.

  • Hicks, C. E. 1996. In search of the California condor. Birding 28(1):40-45.

  • Koford, C. B. 1953. The California condor. National Audubon Society, Washington, DC. Research Report No. 4. 154 pp.

  • Matthews, J.R. and C.J. Moseley (eds.). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Mussels, Crustaceans, Snails, Insects, and Arachnids. xiii + pp. 561-1180. Beacham Publications, Inc., Washington, D.C.

  • Mee, A., B. A. Rideout, J. A. Hamber, J. N. todd, G. Austin, M. Clark, and M. P. Wallace. 2007. Junk ingestion and nestling mortality in a reintroduced population of California condors Gymnogyps californianus. Bird Conservation International 17:119-130.

  • Meretsky, V. J., and N. F. R. Snyder. 1992. Range use and movements of California condors. Condor 94:313-335.

  • Palmer, R. S., editor. 1988a. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 4. [Diurnal raptors, part 1]. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. vii + 433 pp.

  • Pattee, O. H., et al. 1990. Lead hazards within the range of the California condor. Condor 92:931-937.

  • Pendleton, B. A. G., B. A. Millsap, K. W. Cline, and D. M. Bird. 1987. Raptor management techniques manual. National Wildlife Federation, Sci. and Tech. Ser. No. 10. 420 pp.

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  • Rideout, B. A., I. Stalis, and R. Papendick. 2012. Patterns of mortality in free-ranging California
    condors (Gymnogyps californianus). Journal of Wildlife Diseases 48(1): 95-112.

  • Sibley, D. A. 2000a. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Snyder, N. F. R., R. R. Ramey, and F. C. Sibley. 1986. Nest-site biology of the California condor. Condor 88: 228-241.

  • Snyder, N. F. R., and E. V. Johnson. 1985. Photographic censusing of the 1982-1983 California condor population. Condor 87:1-13.

  • Snyder, N. F. R., and H. A. Snyder. 1989. Biology and conservation of the California condor. Current Ornithology 6:175-268.

  • Snyder, N. F. R., and J. A. Hamber. 1985. Replacement- clutching and annual nesting of California condors. Condor 87:374-378.

  • Stoms, D. M., et al. 1993. Geographic analysis of California condor sighting data. Conservation Biology 7:148-

  • Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

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  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1990. Endangered and threatened species recovery program: report to Congress. 406 pp.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2000. Last female California Condor taken into captivity returns to the wild. News release, April 4, 2000. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hopper Mtn. National Wildlife Refuge Complex, CA.

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  • Wilber, S. R. 1978. The Californian condor: 1966-76: a look at its past and future. U.S. Dept. of Interior, North Amer. Fauna series. no. 72. Washington. 136 pp.

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