Creature Feature: California Condor

After twenty years of anticipation, the largest land bird in North America is returning to Humboldt County. The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus), or “Prey-go-neesh” in the Yurok language, hasn’t been seen in these parts for a century. That’s about to change thanks to the tireless efforts of the Yurok tribe, along with the help of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Redwood National Parks.

A Condor’s wingspan measures around 10 feet, making it one of the largest birds in the world. It’s also one of the longest-living birds, with some individuals living as long as 50 years. This poses a problem for reintroduction efforts–condors take their time maturing and finding a mate. When they do eventually settle down to raise young, they only lay one egg every other year.

According to the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, Condors will be released in Redwood National Parks starting this fall or next spring. Condors feature prominently in the creation stories of tribes throughout California, and can play many different roles. For the Wiyot, the condor is a life-giver. For the Mono, he brings violent destruction. Stories of the Yokut people tell of Condor eating the moon and creating the lunar cycle. For the Chumash, the Condor was once a white bird that turned black when he flew too close to the fire. And for the birders and wildlife enthusiasts of Humboldt county, the Condor represents the hope of returning species from the brink of extinction. Before too long, we’ll all get the chance to say “welcome home!”

Photo: Wendy Miller on Flickr
Sources: NCJ – Prey-go-neesh One Step Closer to Soaring in Humboldt Skies
Wikipedia – CA Condor