Condors Make Comeback at Grand Canyon

Written by on October 2, 2009 in AZ Attractions - Comments Off on Condors Make Comeback at Grand Canyon

California Condors are a dramatically endangered bird. In 1982, the condors were balanced on the brink of extinction, primarily due to lead poisoning from bullet fragments left behind during hunting season. A captive breeding program began in 1983 to save the species. As part of the program, California Condors were introduced to the ecosystem in Grand Canyon National Park, and they seem to be thriving. They love the thermals produce by the warm air rising from the bottom of the canyon. The prefer the numerous sheltered caves for nesting and there is plenty of food in the form of mule deer and big horn sheep.

California Condors are large, black vultures with patches of white on the underside of the wings. They have a bald head with skin color ranging from yellow to red, depending on the bird’s mood. Condors have a wingspan on 9.5 feet and can weigh up to 20 pounds. They are the largest soaring bird in North America and spot downed animals on the wing, since they prefer to eat carrion. Many people mistake turkey vultures and crows for condors, but the size is a dead giveaway. Condors are HUGE! Seeing one soaring on the thermals is a sight you won’t soon forget.

There are over 70 birds in the Grand Canyon area at any given time. Many of the younger birds in the park were actually bred in the wild. The very best time to see them is mid-April through July, although any time from March to September is possible. The best place to see them is on the South Rim at Grand Canyon Village right below Bright Angel Lodge. The birds begin to congregate there in the fir trees and on ledges as they prefer this area for overnight roosting.

Most of the birds are tagged and if you are lucky enough to be able to read the tag number, you can go to the Visitors Center in Grand Canyon Village and learn more about that particular bird.

Note for Hunters: If you plan to hunt near Grand Canyon National Park, consider using copper rather than lead bullets. Lead bullets tend to fragment and leave pieces behind that attract various kinds of animal, who ingest the fragments and then die of lead poison. Copper doesn’t harm the wildlife and is less likely to fragment. Copper bullets are also healthier for you if you plan to eat the meat!

More stories in the Grand Canyon Series include:

Formation of the Grand Canyon
South Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Inhabitants of the Grand Canyon
River Rafting the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon Railway
Grand Canyon Skywalk
Condors Make a Comeback in the Grand Canyon
Top 10 Things To Do at the Grand Canyon
Legend of Egyptian Artifacts in the Grand Canyon
The Ghost of Crash Canyon
Phantom Ranch at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
General Visitor Information: 928-638-7888
Backcountry Information Center: 928-638-7875
River Permits Office: 800-959-9164 or 928-638-7843

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