The California Condor is the largest land-based bird in North America, with a wingspan of 8.5 to 11 feet and a length of 43 to 55 inches. It is also one of the rarest, with 3 living in the wild and 85 living in captivity.
The plumage of the Condor is black, with white patches under the wings. The head is many colors, from red to orange. The head is mostly bare, excepting some sparse, small black feathers on the crown and forehead, extending to the cheeks. The beak is silver-gray; the feet and legs are also gray. Immatures are similar to the adults, except for the head, which is a drab black-brown.
The California Condor nests on cliffs or in caves, without nests. Only about 1 egg is laid, white in color. It is incubated by both parents for approximately 54-58 days. The nestlings fly in about 5-6 months. There is no record of how long the young depend on the parents in the wild; zoo cases seem to indicate 5 years, although that figure has no sound proof or average.
The Condor is a carrion eater, and uses its vision primarily in finding carrion. It will also use other birds as evidence of a carcass, and will chase smaller birds away. Any confrontation between the Condor and a Golden Eagle is left to chance.
The California Condor once ranged up the western coast of the United States and barely into Canada, as well as the southern United States, northern Mexico, and Baja California. (These figures are from fossil evidence) From the few wild examples, they seem to prefer alpine and mountainous regions. They were located in the San Joaquin Valley, north of Los Angeles, in the mid-1980's.
The California Condor had only one major predator: man. Man has succeeded in almost destroying a harmless and neccesary link in the food chain. Scientists are slowly increasing the California Condor in captivity, but it is not known if it will ever reach its once great range.