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GALLERIES > BIRDS > FALCONIFORMES > CATHARTIDAE > CALIFORNIA CONDOR [Gymnogyps californianus]


California Condor Picture @ Kiwifoto.com
 
 
Location: Big Sur - Pfeiffer State Park, CA
GPS: 36.3N, -121.8W, elev=210' MAP
Date: May 26, 2007
ID : ? [3888 x 2592]

California Condor Picture @ Kiwifoto.com
 
 
Location: Big Sur - Pfeiffer State Park, CA
GPS: 36.3N, -121.8W, elev=210' MAP
Date: May 26, 2007
ID : ? [3888 x 2592]

bird photography

California Condor Image @ Kiwifoto.com
 
 
Location: Big Sur - Pfeiffer State Park, CA
GPS: 36.3N, -121.8W, elev=210' MAP
Date: May 26, 2007
ID : ? [3888 x 2592]

California Condor Image @ Kiwifoto.com
 
 
Location: Big Sur - Pfeiffer State Park, CA
GPS: 36.3N, -121.8W, elev=210' MAP
Date: May 26, 2007
ID : ? [3888 x 2592]

bird photography

SPECIES INFO

The California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus, is a species of North American bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae. Currently, this condor inhabits only the western coastal mountains of the United States, Baja California, and the Grand Canyon. It is the only surviving member of the genus Gymnogyps, though fossil members are known.

It is a large, black vulture with patches of white on the underside of the wings and a largely bald head with skin color ranging from yellowish to a glowing red, depending on the bird’s mood. It has the largest wingspan of any bird found in North America and is one of the heaviest. The condor is a scavenger and eats large amounts of carrion. They are one of the world’s longest-living birds, with lifespans of up to 50 years.

Condor numbers dramatically declined in the 1800s due to poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction. Eventually, a conservation plan was put in place by the United States government that led to the capture of all the remaining wild condors in 1987. These 22 birds were bred at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. Numbers rose through captive breeding and, beginning in 1991, condors have been reintroduced into the wild. The project is the most expensive species conservation project ever undertaken in the United States. The California Condor is one of the world's rarest bird species. As of 2005, there were only 273 individuals including 127 in the wild.

The condor is a significant bird to many Californian Native American groups and takes an important role in several of their traditional myths.

The California Condor was described by English naturalist George Shaw in 1797 as Vultur californianus. It was originally classified in the same genus as the Andean Condor (V. gryphus), but, due to the Andean Condor's slightly different markings, slightly longer wings, and tendency to actually kill small animals to eat, the California Condor has now been placed in its own monotypic genus. The generic name Gymnogyps is derived from the Greek gymnos/??µ??? "naked" or "bare", and gyps/??? "vulture", while the specific name californianus comes from its location in California. The word condor itself is derived from the Peruvian cuntur.

Together with the other six species of New World vultures, the California Condor is classified in the family Cathartidae, which is distinct from the similar-appearing 15 species of Old World vultures of the family Accipitridae, a family which also includes falcons, hawks, and eagles.

Though both are similar and have similar ecological roles, the New World and Old World Vultures evolved from different ancestors in different parts of the world. Just how different the two are is currently under debate, with some authorities suggesting that the New World vultures are more closely related to storks, whereas others maintain their overall position in the order Falconiformes along with the Old World vultures. A third placement is for them to be in their own order, Cathartiformes.

The genus Gymnogyps is a prime example of a relict distribution. During the Pleistocene epoch, this genus was widespread across the Americas. From fossils, the Floridan Gymnogyps kofordi from the Early Pleistocene and the Peruvian Gymnogyps howardae from the Late Pleistocene have been described. A condor found in Late Pleistocene deposits on Cuba was initially described as Antillovultur varonai, but has since been recognized as another member of Gymnogyps. It may even have been a subspecies of the California Condor.

Today's California Condor is the sole surviving member of Gymnogyps and has no accepted subspecies; although its range greatly contracted during the Holocene, the species always had a small and inbred population. However, there is a Late Pleistocene palaeosubspecies, Gymnogyps californianus amplus, which occurred over much of the bird's historical range – even extending into Florida – but was larger, having about the same weight as the Andean Condor. This bird also had a wider bill. As the climate changed during the last ice age, the entire population became smaller until it had evolved into the Gymnogyps californianus californianus of today.


                                     




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