California Condors
California Condors Page
California Condors
Lewis and Clark discover them

Posted Saturday November 6th 2021

Lewis and Clark discover the California Condor
of the large kind:
"nine feet from the points of the wings" On November 18, 1805, William Clark led a party of eleven men on an excursion to Cape Disappointment and the Pacific Ocean. As they started out that morning, the explores followed a route along, the Columbia River shore, and around "Haley's Bay" (now known as Baker Bay) The men walked right though this area.

It was an interesting day for the explorers. A few miles downriver from here, they encountered a California condor feasting on the remains of a whale washed up on the shore. The large bird amazed them. Clark wrote, "Rubin Fields Killed a Buzzard of the large Kind near the meat of the whale we Saw... measured from the tips of the wings across 9 1/2 feet..."

The Magnificent Condor:
At the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, California condors (Gymnogyps californianus) were a common sight on the Columbia River. Today. the California condor is an endangered species that no longer inhabits this area. In 2004, there were 90 in existence in the wild and 125 in captivity.
Recovery efforts are underway in Arizona and California (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Size and Shape:

  • California Condors are the largest wild birds in North America.
  • The wings are exceptionally long and broad, with long primary feathers giving a fingered look to the wingtips.
  • In flight the body is noticeably bulky, the head appears small, and the tail is short and broad.

Color Pattern:

  • Adults are black with striking white patches under the wings.
  • The naked head and neck are yellowish orange.
  • Immatures have dark heads, grayer necks, and mottled grayish instead of clear white patches under the wings.
  • Adult coloration is reached at 6-8 years of age.


  • Condors are masterful soarers that rarely flap their wings.
  • They have a solid, heavy appearance in the air, and don't get buffeted by the wind in the way that smaller soaring birds do.
  • Condors are social birds that form groups around carcasses, at bathing spots, and at roosts.


  • California Condors scavenge for carrion in habitats ranging from Pacific beaches to mountain forests and meadows.
  • They nest in caves on cliff faces in mountains up to 6,000 feet in elevation.

Their size makes take-off difficult, leading them to use high perches for easier take-offs.

It's the largest North American land bird
California Condor:
  • Classified as a New World vulture or condor family: Cathartidae
  • It became extinct in the wild in 1987 when all remaining wild individuals were captured, but has since been reintroduced to northern Arizona and southern Utah (including the Grand Canyon area and Zion National Park), the coastal mountains of central and southern California, and northern Baja California in Mexico.
  • Although four other fossil members are known, it is the only surviving member of the genus Gymnogyps
  • The species is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered.
It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 60 years
  • The plumage is black with patches of white on the underside of the wings
  • The head is largely bald, with skin color ranging from gray on young birds to yellow and bright orange on breeding adults
  • Its 9.8 foot wingspan is the widest of any North American bird
  • Its weight of up to 26 pounds nearly equals that of the trumpeter swan, the heaviest among native North American bird species
  • The condor is a scavenger and eats large amounts of decaying flesh of anything dead

Other Wikipedia Citings

Chinook Washington Columbia River
Looking South at the Columbia River in Chinook, Washington
In the distance is Fort Stevens in Oregon

Chinook Washington Columbia River
Looking South again