California Condors 101
The California condor is one of our nation’s most magnificent birds, with wings spanning an amazing nine and a half feet. It once dominated the skies over western North America, but sadly declined throughout much of the 20th century until only drastic measures could save it from extinction.
Why They’re Important
Besides their iconic nature, condors are scavengers, meaning they do not kill for their food, but eat dead animal carcasses instead. As disgusting as this may seem, such animals are vital to the natural ecosystem. They are nature’s cleaning crew.
Humans pose the greatest threat to condors. When we build housing developments and other projects we destroy condor habitat. These big birds also get snagged in our power lines and get into our trash where they choke on small objects or accidentally drink poisons like motor oil or antifreeze. Some people even shoot condors, even though it’s been illegal to do so for many years. And being scavengers, condors sometimes eat dead animals left behind by human hunters or poachers and then die of poisoning from the lead ammunition used to make the kill.
What Defenders is Doing to Help California Condors
Defenders has been at the forefront of efforts to protect the condor for many years. We led the charge toeliminate the threat of lead poisoning by co-sponsoring California state legislation and regulations that require the use of non-lead ammunition to hunt big game in California condor habitat. Today, we’re working to bring similar protections to neighboring states.
We’re also striving to ensure that new development, including expansive wind and solar energy developments planned for California and the southwest, don’t needlessly destroy vital condor habitat or endanger individual condors.