Birding bud, Chris Rohrer traveled with me and of course we did some birding on the way. And the prime spot that I had on my list was he Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon, which is known as one of the best spots to find the majestic and rare California Condor. In 1987 the remaining 22 condors living in the wild were captured and a very extensive captive breeding program was started. Today the total population has increased to less then 500 with less than 300 in the wild. The captive breeding program has led to releases of these birds at 3 different sites; 1 in California, 1 in Baja California, and 1 at the Grand Canyon area in Arizona. They only breed once every 2 years and only lay one egg, which results in a very slow reproductive rate. They have a lifespan of up to 60 years. Their numbers will always be low as they require huge areas of land to subsist and live. The biggest threat to those in the wild today is lead poisoning and every bird is tested every year for lead toxicity, with some having to be taken into rehabilitation. The lead poisoning is due to the use of lead ammunition used in hunting and left in the carcasses left in the wild.
As we pulled up the Navajo Bridge, I immediately saw one soaring near the bridge and could not hardly get parked quickly enough so I could get out and gaze at it in awe. As it was, there were 2 of them there on Friday, numbers 11 and 83. (All of the birds are tagged, numbered and monitored closely every year.) With a wingspan of about 9½ feet, they are the largest land bird in North America. What a thrill to see such a rare bird soaring and riding the thermals in the wild!