What’s the largest native bird in North American? That’s easy. With a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, California Condors (CACO) win the prize. Soaring above the landscape, they use their keen eyesight to search for carrion and provide important “clean-up” services to the environment. It’s been about 100 years since these magnificent birds flew in Oregon skies, but I’m happy to report that this is about to change. The Yurok Tribe has worked for decades to bring back this sacred bird, called “pregoneesh” in the Yurok language. A partnership between the Yurok tribe, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service is establishing a population of CACOs in Redwood National Park in Northern California. With a flight range of up to 150 miles per day, these birds will soon be flying in Oregon again.
Once seen over much of North America, the population of these birds plummeted to only 22 individuals by 1987, due to hazards such as hunting, habitat destruction, and lead poisoning. These were rounded up and placed into a captive breeding program. Thanks to a comprehensive recovery program with a focus on careful breeding, mentorship by older birds, and training programs to prepare the birds for release, more than 300 California Condors now live in the wild, ranging over California, Arizona, Utah, and the Baja Peninsula. Nearly 200 more are living in captivity.