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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Bird    Species Name:
Gymnogyps californianus

Common Name:
California Condor

Family:
Cathartidae

Localities:
Lower Columbia River, Washington   November 18, 1805

Flirting with extinction

More than twice the weight of a bald eagle, the California condor also sports the largest wingspan of any North American bird.  This majestic, soaring bird is nearly extinct in the wild, and only occurs as small, reintroduced groups in southern California, and in the Grand Canyon area.  The population reached a disastrous low in 1984 when just 15 birds remained.  Lewis and Clark clearly documented and collected condors along the lower Columbia River, which reminds us that the bird’s distribution in their time was from northern Baja California to the Pacific Northwest, much more extensive than its present arid haunts of the Southwest.  Fossil evidence suggests an even greater range covering most of the U.S.  Anyway, the superabundance of fish and sea mammals at the time of Lewis and Clark certainly would have provided enough carrion to allow condors to range all along the Pacific Coast of America. 



Journal Entries:

From the meteorology notes, October 28, 1805--first Vulture of the Columbia seen today.
Capt. Clark, October 30,...  more>>

References Shaw, George and Frederick Polydor Nodder, The naturalists' miscellany: or Coloured figures of natural objects; drawn and described immediately from nature. 24 vols., 1789-1813, Printed for Nodder & Co., London,

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California condor from the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, 1905.

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California condor from the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, 1905.

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Talons of the California condor from the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, 1905.


 
 
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