Job with a View
"For the Birds"

How many people do you know who are working toward losing their job?

Wildlife biologist Randy Townsend spends his days with young California Condors. If he does his job right, he'll be looking for new work. When and if the California Condor is no longer endangered, Randy's job will be finished.

Randy at work

There are only an estimated 160 California Condors, Gymnogyps californianus, in the wild. The species came close to extinction after decades of being shot and poisoned. 160 might not sound like a lot, but experts hope these numbers mark a rebound for the majestic raptors.


Condors force air through their body to make hissing and grunting noises; they have no vocal chords.

Heat can be a problem for Condors. They adapt to soaring desert temperatures by defecating on their legs. This reduces their core body temperature and is called Urohydrosis.

Soaring Condor

Condors are related to storks.

Adult condors can display their emotions through skin color changes.

Condors eat an average of two to three pounds per feeding.

It can take a condor up to one week to hatch from an egg.

Condor chicks are born with their eyes open.

When scared, condors regurgitate (throw up) their stomach contents.

Condors do not have talons like eagles or hawks; their nails are more like toenails.

In 1988 the all known California Condors were removed from the wild. In an attempt to bring this bird back from the edge of extinction an intensive breeding program was begun in captivity. One of the leading spots for this effort is the World Center For Birds Of Prey in Boise, Idaho.

The World Center For Birds Of Prey raises birds of prey for release to the wild. They house about 200 falcons, condors, and eagles for breeding. The Center currently houses 20 breeding pairs of California Condors and the first young from these birds was hatched in 1996. Research there is underway on nutrition, behavior, and many other topics to help us better understand birds of prey and their requirements.

For Randy Townsend the ultimate goal is to look out and see California Condors on the wing. Not one or two here and there, but lots of them. The way it used to be. It's a dream for nature that's being brought to reality by man and science.