Recovery Efforts for California Condors, Part 2

by OBDK on March 16, 2022

Last week, we spoke about California Condors, their characteristics, and that they’re endangered. This week, we’ll go more in-depth about why they’re endangered and what efforts have been made to save the California Condor. These efforts have been able to increase the population trend of these birds.1 

The beginning of the California Condors’ declining population numbers is connected to the arrival of European settlers to North America. They used to be found throughout the United States and had survived the Ice Age. However, by the 1980s, there were only about 20 left.1&2 


What caused them to decline like this?


Lead Bullets 

California Condors are scavengers – so they don’t hunt down prey themselves. They instead pick over what another animal has killed. At first, they could rely on sabertooth cats, but once settlers arrived and began hunting animals, the condors would rely on them instead. The problem with that was lead bullets were used.2 The bullets would leave lead fragments in the meat and when the California Condors would ingest them, they’d be poisoned.1 



California Condor eggs are fragile, yet they became even more so with the introduction of pesticides. When these condors were exposed to these, it would make their eggshells even more fragile. This in turn affected the survival of offspring and reproduction rate.1 



Birth Rate 

California Condors don’t begin to reproduce until they’re at least six years old. When they do, they’ll only lay one egg every other year. This is what makes their recovery so difficult.1 When their eggs are affected, they can’t bounce back as quickly as other species might be able to. 


Recovery Efforts

To help these incredibly endangered birds, recovery efforts began. This included captive breeding programs.

Eggs would be taken from female condors because they realized that when they took the egg, the female would lay another one.1 In 1992, the USFWS started the reintroduction process of condors into the wild. The population finally rose from 23 to over 400.3


In 2008, there were officially more California Condors in the wild than in captivity for the first time.3


Did you miss our first email on California Condors? Read it now! 




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