For those who live in ‘Condor Country,’ this one’s for you!
You may have recently seen images on Twitter of about 20 endangered California condors “having a party” at a residential home near Tehachapi in Southern California. While this is a remarkable sighting, this behavior can be problematic if not quickly discouraged.
Condors are large, curious, wild animals that explore their environment to find food. Occasionally, this leads to condors visiting homes within their habitat which can create dangerous situations for these endangered birds and cause damage to property. It is illegal to place food and water out to attract condors or other wildlife to your home. This is harmful to condors and can lead to serious behavioral problems which can result in their removal from the wild or accidental death. Condors are social; therefore, one condor exhibiting undesirable behaviors can lead to other condors learning these same behaviors.
If you live in ‘Condor Country’ here are some ways to keep your property and California condors safe:
- Never feed or touch a condor.
- Spray water, yell, clap, and make loud noises to scare away condors who may come near your property. Sometimes it takes persistence, but condors will move on if they are immediately and consistently hazed from the property. It may be exciting to have condors visit but allowing them to loiter will only make it more difficult to get them to leave.
- Install a motion-activated scarecrow animal deterrent.
- Remove or prevent access to things that may attract condors, like open trash and recyclable containers, wires, seat cushions and drinkable water resources.
- Construct barriers to vulnerable property that cannot be moved like AC unit wires, metal conduit around exposed wires, protective caps around insulation on outside waterspouts.
- Do not leave garbage or poisons such as antifreeze in the wild.
- Pick up “microtrash,” or small bits of trash such as broken glass, bottle caps, can tabs and other smaller, broken down pieces of trash that can be ingested by condors. Condors can ingest small items around homes and feed them to their chicks which can cause starvation, stunted growth and death.
- Use non-lead ammunition for hunting and/or dispatch of livestock. Lead ammunition fragments upon impact and, if consumed by a scavenger such as a condor, can result in lead poisoning, which is the number one known cause of death in California condors.
- If you see a California condor, record the wing tag # and color, and email the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California Condor Recovery Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
California condors are protected by state and federal law, meaning no one is permitted to harm or kill California condors. However, residents can haze condors using the above methods to prevent them from perching on their homes and causing damage. *The above list does not imply endorsement of any products by the USFWS.
About the California condor
With a wingspan of 9.5 feet and weighing up to 25 pounds, the California condor is the largest land bird in North America. Like other North American vultures, condors are an essential part of nature’s clean-up crew — they benefit the landscapes they visit by feeding on dead animals. Animal carcasses can be vectors for disease transmission in humans, wildlife and livestock. By consuming these carcasses, condors help to prevent disease outbreaks and serve as an indicator of habitat health.
During the Pleistocene Era, ending 10,000 years ago, the condor’s range extended across much of North America. By 1940, their range reduced to the coastal mountains of Southern California and populations had dropped dramatically. In 1967, the California condor was listed as “endangered” by the federal government and by 1982, only 23 condors survived world-wide. All remaining wild condors were placed into a captive breeding program to save the bird from extinction.
Since 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing captive-bred condors to the wild. Learn more about the free-flying population here.
Written by Rebecca Fabbri, public affairs specialist, California-Great Basin Region, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex staff