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Condors alive in 1982.

Michael Mace retrieving a California Condor egg from a cliffside nest by rapelling.

Retrieving a California Condor egg from a cliffside nest.



Risky Business

When the California condor conservation project began in 1982, finding the remaining 22 birds and their eggs—and bringing them into protective care—was adventuresome indeed. Climbing cliffs and trees to find nests, and safely wrangling wild raptors that can weigh up to 25 pounds—and see you as a threat—was no small feat. But once the birds were safely in our care, the work of saving them could begin.



San Diego Zoo Global researchers transport a condor in a crate to the Safari Park's condor facility. Micro trash.

Left: San Diego Zoo Global researchers transport a condor in a crate to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park's condor facility. Right: Microtrash found in a condor's stomach. As scavengers, condors are attracted to shiny objects as a source of food, including bits of metal, glass, and other trash, which they then feed to their chicks, slowly killing them by impacting their stomachs. 


California condors alive today.

Flight Behavior

Condors are still endangered because of threats posed by humans. Birds are killed when they are shot, collide with electrical wires and windmills, or eat from a carcass that has been poisoned by a lead bullet. While we work to release more birds into the wild in safe areas, we also fight against these tragic and preventable losses.

A pair california condors sit on woody branches while two more fly off in the distance

Together, we can
turn things around.


Condors lay just one egg a year.

Condor egg pipping. Adult condor puppet being used to hand-rear hatchling chicks.

Left: San Diego Zoo Global experts give a California condor hatchling a hand in breaking out of its egg. Right: To ensure that young birds do not get used to humans, and are able to survive in the wild, chicks are fed by a puppet "mom."



Soar On

Our condor breeding program has been a hard-won success, but this species is now a model for conservation efforts. We aren’t just breeding these birds: we are breeding them to be wild! All of our animal care is conducted with this in mind, keeping chicks and adult birds unaccustomed to human contact. When hand feeding is necessary, we do it with a low-tech method: a hand puppet made to look like a condor mother! As long as humans are a threat, we want these special birds to stay far away from them.



California condor looking down as it soars in a blue sky


MPH a condor can reach in flight.

In recent years, California condors have been spotted soaring majestically over the Grand Canyon, bringing things full circle for these mythical “thunderbirds”. A population of 200 wild birds is a huge achievement, but there’s so much more to be done. We can’t do it without you.

California condor sitting on a cliff at the Grand Canyon