After over a century long absence, the California condor is back in the Pacific Northwest! On May 3rd, 2022 the Yurok Tribe’s Condor Restoration Program, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) Service, released the first two juvenile condors (between the ages of 2-3) in Northern California. Because these majestic birds can fly 150 miles per day, and the proximity of the release site to the Oregon border, Oregonians could have the chance to see condors flying free at any given moment!
California condors look very similar to other local bird species from afar, and juvenile birds have different markings from adults. Use our Condor Identification Guide to quickly tell condors apart from turkey vultures, bald eagles and golden eagles!
Stacked left to right, adult and juvenile: California condor, bald eagle, turkey vulture and golden eagle. A quick snapshot of how difficult it can be to tell species apart, especially because juveniles look slightly different each year they age. Make sure to check out our more detailed guide linked above!
Condors are an ancient species and had a vast historic range during the Pleistocene Epoch (aka the Ice Age), which extended into modern day Canada and Mexico, and crept well into western states like Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Due to a changing climate and environment, coupled with poaching, and environmental toxins like DDT, and lead fragments from bullets left on the landscape, current range is reduced to mere pockets of the nation. There have been a few reintroduction efforts in the southern portions of the country, but the recent reintroduction by the Yurok Tribe is the farthest north the species has been since it was extirpated over a century ago! The reintroduction of condors to the Pacific Northwest begins a new hopeful era of condors returning to more of their historic range, since it is expected that these released birds will include the entirety of Oregon into their vast range as they scavenge for food.
The full story of the comeback of the condor could not be complete without efforts from organizations like the Oregon Zoo and Ventana Wildlife Society, which have been breeding and raising condors for release into the wild. Now there are about 500 California condors in the world, up from 22 in 1987 when the species was almost wiped out.
To learn more about California condors, their history, and connection to the Yurok and Nez Perce Tribes, listen to the podcast the Shadow of the Condor or watch our condor webcasts.