As a break for those of us who have been glued to TV-radio-print coverage of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, I want to talk about the return of the condors. I stumbled across this NPR coverage of the once-a-year releases of young birds to the wild after a 20-year effort by the Peregrine Fund helped by various organizations and state and federal agencies.
“With a wingspan that can stretch nearly 10 feet,” the Fund’s Chris Parish observed, “California condors are some of the largest birds in North America. They’re also some of the rarest. After the population plunged to just 22 in 1982, all were taken into captivity for safe keeping and breeding.”
Just a few are released once a year into the wild in Northern Arizona; others are released in California and in Mexico. Thanks to interventions such as this there are now nearly 500 California condors in the wild.
I have never forgotten seeing a condor in a zoo either in Sacramento or San Francisco. While we stood in front of the enclosure, the giant bird jumped down from its perch with a huge whoosh of wings. and craned its naked pink neck toward us. That might be where my fear of birds came from and not, as I used to imagine, from my friend Lucy’s parakeet. In high school, when I’d stop at Lucy’s house, her father took great delight in watching my reaction when he’d let the bird loose to fly around the kitchen for exercise.
In spite of that, I’d love to attend one of those condor-release viewings. Especially because the birds circle above cliffs some thousand feet above the eager binocular-wielding bird-watchers. My kind of bird-watching.