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The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)

Known as the largest bird in North America, the California condor is in a bit of a pickle. The recent wildfires in California have devastated the land and killed off many of the native plants and animals living there. One news story less than a week ago told of a condor sanctuary that was burned down in the fires.

Physical Description and Behavior

These condors are uniformly black with white lines on the undersides of their wings. Their heads are pink and orange with a yellow area on their chin. Their legs are gray and their beak is an eggshell color.

Fun fact: The Condor is the largest bird in North America. They are up to 5 feet long, with a wingspan of almost twice that. But sadly, you cannot ride on them.

These birds are known as "birds of prey" and are carnivores. They mainly live off of eating the carcasses of larger terrestrial mammals such as goats, deer, horses, cattle, and more. It is believed that in their early days, about 2.5 million years ago, they fed off of "Megafauna", but these large animals now no longer exist.

They are important to the ecosystem mainly due to the consumption of carrion. This helps to break down dead animal matter in forests and along shores. The extra nutrients, as a result, can be very beneficial to plants on the forest floor.

Habitat and Location

This condor is considered to be Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List. While their population is considered to be increasing, it is believed that there are only 44 individuals left. We do not yet know how many might have been killed by the ongoing California forest fires.

They mainly stay in rocky shrublands and oak savannah. You can often find them near cliffs and large trees, searching for carrion to eat. They are found in southern California and also on the border between Arizona and Utah. They are most likely extinct in Washington and Oregon.

Watch this video below to find out more!

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