The story of the California Condor—an awe-inspiring symbol of wilderness—is one of the most dramatic and contentious in conservation biology. Huge scavengers with wingspans reaching more than nine feet, Condors declined by 1985 to just nine individuals left in the wild. At that point, under a highly controversial program, the last birds were brought into captivity to create a population that could eventually be reestablished in nature. This engaging book, written by two scientists who were intimately involved with the Condor conservation effort, tells the full story of the California Condor, from the bird's evolution and biology to its captive breeding and subsequent releases, and its uncertain future. It introduces the largest soaring bird in the continental United States to a broad audience and at the same time presents an important case study of a critically endangered species.
Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Condors suffered from a variety of stresses—from shooting to strychnine poisoning that was an inadvertent side effect of campaigns to exterminate wolves and grizzly bears from California. Condors also faced dramatic declines in their food supply and progressively smaller foraging habitats. But as we are now coming to understand, the most important cause of their decline was lead poisoning caused by the ingestion of the ammunition fragments often present in its carrion food supply, especially in deer that were killed, but not recovered, by hunters. Noel and Helen Snyder delineate in clear fashion the myriad issues facing the Condor today and, looking to the future, convey a measure of hope that we may still achieve viable wild populations of this magnificent denizen of the California landscape.
“Intimately involved in the controversial Condor conservation effort, the Snyders share information on the bird’s evolution and biology, why it became an endangered species, the captive breeding and subsequent release program, and what the future now holds.”—Bob Walch Coast Views
“Works as both a field guide and case study of how one endangered species was brought back from the brink of extinction.”—Santa Cruz Sentinel
“Illustrated with numerous photographs and written in an easy-to-read style, this relates a fascinating story.”—Brit Trust Ornithology (Bto)
“Introduction to the California Condor covers the history up to the present of the huge vulture that was on the brink of extinction. The guide includes photos and drawings.”—Lee Sutter San Luis Obispo Tribune
“It is nothing short of amazing that one book can do it all so well. . . . Raptors of California sets the current standard.”—Birding
“Authors, Noel and Helen Snyder have given us a thoroughly engaging account of condor life history. . . . This is a great book that reads like a real-life novel written for raptor nuts. Not only is the book well written and deeply informative, but you also come away learning a ton about condors. And there aren’t many books out there that will give you such a detailed and personal glimpse into the life of a California raptor!”—David Lukas Raptorpassage
"This is an amazingly compact, up-to-date history of the politics and biological research of the California Condor. It will be invaluable for biology students who want to review a case study of an endangered species and for environmental planners considering the highly political nature of rare-species conservation."—Allen Fish, Director, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory
"As one of the most visible, dramatic, and controversial examples of intensive conservation management in modern times, the California Condor makes a good story. The Snyders' work is exemplary. This is a solid introduction to the subject and an excellent contribution to the press's natural history series."—Walter Koenig, Hastings Natural History Reservation, University of California