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California Condor: The largest flying bird in North America

A California Condor flies at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Photo by Chris Parish/The Peregrine Fund
A California Condor flies at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Photo by Chris Parish/The Peregrine Fund

Readers of BirdWatching in early 2013 voted California Condor the most-wanted bird in the United States and Canada. Here’s what you need to know to add it to your life list.

Description, range, and population

DESCRIPTION. Nine-foot wingspan. Mostly black body feathers with white wing linings. Unfeathered head is gray until age 5 or 6, when it turns pinkish orange. Nearly all condors wear numbered wing tags. (ABA Code 6)

RANGE. Central and southern California, Grand Canyon, southern Utah, Baja California.

POPULATION, as of July 31, 2013. Wild: 224 (71 in Arizona and Utah, 123 in California, 30 in Baja California). Captive: 205 (including 20 birds temporarily in captivity). Total: 429. Endangered.

View a real-time eBird map.

Find more viewing tips here.


Viewing locations

CALIFORNIA: Big Sur, Pinnacles National Park, Dough Flat region of Los Padres National Forest

NORTHERN ARIZONA: South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Navajo Bridge, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

UTAH: Zion National Park

MEXICO: Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park, Baja California


San Diego Zoo Safari Park Condor Ridge

San Diego Zoo Elephant Odyssey


Santa Barbara Zoo Condor Country

Oregon Zoo, Portland

Condor Cliffs at the World Center for Birds of Prey, Boise, Idaho

Chapultepec Zoo, Mexico City


Ventana Wildlife Society: Two-Hour Viewing Tour or all-day Sanctuary Tour by appointment; Condor Wilderness Camps for ages 13-17, July 15-17 and 29-31, 2013


Victor Emanuel Nature Tours: Grand California, August 10-25, 2013

Wings: Arizona and Utah: Fall Migration in the Canyonlands, September 3-15, 2013

Bird Treks: Complete California, September 6-19, 2013

Naturalist Journeys: Grand Canyon Southwest Parks Nature Tour, September 12-21, 2013; California Coast Birding Tour, October 5-12, 2013

Field Guides: Northern Arizona’s Canyons and Condor, May 31-June 5, 2014, May 30-June 4, 2015


Eagle-Eye Tours: California, September 7-17, 2014

Condor release

The Peregrine Fund will release condors into the wild in northern Arizona on September 28, 2013. Open to the public.


About our poll

We wanted to know, and you told us.


Earlier this year, we published a list of 240 bird species that occur in the United States and Canada and asked readers of BirdWatching magazine to choose the 10 that they wanted to see most.

We derived our list from the authoritative ABA Checklist. We included all rare, casual, and accidental species (ABA Checklist Codes 3, 4, and 5); regularly occurring North American species that are not widespread (Codes 1 and 2); and one species that was once dangerously close to extinction but today is surviving in captivity and struggling to become naturally re-established (Code 6). We omitted most species not native to North America.

Nearly 900 of our readers participated. Their 10 most-wanted birds include three owls, a handful of endangered species, a clown-faced puffin, a blue-footed seabird that is rarely spotted in the United States, and America’s one and only condor.

We presented the 10 most-wanted birds in the August 2013 issue of BirdWatching. Our article included not only the descriptions, population info, and eBird maps above but also 10 things you didn’t know about each species.


Revised: Numbers of wild and captive condors updated, September 6, 2013.


Originally Published

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