Common Name

Scientific Name

View Utah Distribution Map

Photo by Norman Williamson
Photo Copyright Norman Williamson

The California condor, Gymnogyps californianus, is among the rarest birds in North America. Over the last century, populations declined (due to lead poisoning, cyanide poisoning, shooting, and DDT contamination) to the point that the few remaining birds were captured for captive breeding efforts in the 1980s. Since then, captive-reared birds have been released in California and northern Arizona. In Utah, sightings were historically rare, noted only twice by pioneers in the 1800s, but sightings of birds that were released in northern Arizona have been made almost statewide in the late 1990s.

California condors prefer mountainous country at low and moderate elevations, especially rocky and brushy areas near cliffs. Colonies roost in snags, tall open-branched trees, or cliffs, often near important foraging grounds. This condor eats carrion, usually feeding on large items such as dead sheep, cattle, and deer. Typically two to three pounds of meat are eaten per day. California condors may live for 45 years, and they need five to seven years to become sexually mature. Only one egg is laid every other year. The egg is laid on the floor of a cliff cavity or cave, or in a crevice among boulders on a steep slope. Egg laying occurs mainly in February or March, and incubation lasts eight weeks. Young fly at about five or six months, and may be partially dependent on parents for up to a year.

The California condor is Federally listed as endangered.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.