My daughter saw the California Condors in the photo above at the Santa Barbara Zoo and asked why they were numbered. We told her it was because they were endangered, though I thought, “There are that few left?” I was editing the photos back in our hotel room. She began to ask a bunch of “why” questions about the condors that I couldn’t answer. Since the California Condor is one of our state’s rarest birds, I figured it was prudent to look them up online to see what I could explain to her. Some of the information is pretty interesting, but most is downright sad.

  • In 1987, only 24 California Condors were left. All were captured and brought to our San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo for breeding. Now, there are nearly 400 living, though they can’t sustain their population in the wild and still need breeding facilities.
  • All California Condors have wing bands, like the ones in the photo above, so that scientists can track them. That is how they know birds living in different areas actually “visit” each other in the wild. Each condor has a documented history. You can see some of it here on the Santa Barbara Zoo Condor website.
  • Lead poisoning is a lead killer of California Condors. Hunters still use lead bullets to hunt animals. Condors eat dead animals, ingest the bullets, and die from lead poisoning. California has made it illegal to hunt with lead bullets in condor territory, but some still do anyway. The other reasons for the decline in numbers is loss of habitat, poaching, wind turbines, and power lines.
  • California Condors can live for up to 50 years.
  • California Condors are the largest North American land birds with a wingspan of almost 3 meters.
  • California Condors bred in captivity are taught to avoid power lines and people.

What Kids Can Do To Help

California Condor Facts

The number one thing that kids (and adults) can do is clean up trash! California Condors gravitate toward microtrash, small bits of trash like scraps and bottle caps. Scientists aren’t sure why condors like it, but they bring the trash back with food for their chicks. Small bits of trash can block a tiny chick’s airway and cause it to die. So if you’re in California Condor country (they don’t fly out of their way to seek it out), dispose of every single shred of trash by packing it away. Don’t leave trash out. Hopefully, lessons like these will encourage kids not to litter wherever they are.

Did you learn something? You can visit condors in Southern California at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Lost Angeles Zoo, and the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Sources:  Wikipedia and The Santa Barbara Zoo.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. Great info! My kids are all about learning about different animals. We went to our local zoo the other day (we have a year round pass) & the kids as usual were full of questions.

    1. Hi Beth! I bet you have a lot of questions to answer with all of those kids! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I love condors also. If you have a chance, you should visit the Pepsi Refresh website, to vote for Andean Condors to receive a grant from Pepsi.

  3. The California condor is considered one of the rarest birds in the world and is the largest land bird in North America. The condor is considered one of the most endangered birds and at one point, its population dangerously declined to less than 25 birds. The summer of 2008 has been a difficult year for condors and other wildlife in California because of the major wildfires. The condors in the Big Sur area were evacuated from their flight cages, which burned in the fires along with a lot of equipment.