La Jolla Girl saw the California Condors in the photo above at the Santa Barbara Zoo and asked why they were numbered. We told her it’s because they are endangered, though I thought to myself, “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 on the internet to see what I could explain to her. Some of the information is pretty interesting, but most is downright sad.
- In 1987, there were only 24 California Condors left. All were captured and brought to our own San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo for breeding. Now there are nearly 400 living, though they aren’t able to 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 scientists can track them. And, that is how they know that 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 bird 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
The number one thing that kids (and adults) can do is clean up trash! California Condors gravitate toward microtrash, which is 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. But 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.