Posts Tagged ‘endangered species’


November 4, 2016

The Great Gray Owl has been on the California Endangered Species List for some time.  Current estimates say there may be fewer than 300 of these  marvelous birds in the entire state.  Their modern range is limited. They may once have lived in the Sacramento River Valley but they are now limited to relict populations in scattered bits of suitable habitat in the central Sierra from 1800 to 7000 feet elevation. One recent study of Yosemite, where the birds were first confirmed nesting in 1914, found less than 10 percent of that giant park is suitable GGO habitat. There is also a tiny sliver of the Oregon population that dips across the border into Modoc County north of Alturas. Human alteration of the habitat has not been positive for the Great Gray Owl.  Now climate change just adds stress and more uncertainty about their ability to survive.  Vehicles and Great Horned Owls are lead natural enemies.  Introduced West Nile Virus is a potential game-ender…though so far there is no evidence it has struck California’s population. An Oregon owl in the northeastern part of that state died of West Nile last year.  The GGO is highly susceptible to the disease.bdger2

The most crucial and thorough study of Great Gray Owls ever done anywhere in North America is now completed and has been presented to the California government and the public.  It calls for serious action to help this species survive.  You can click here to read the report and its conclusions.

The research also shows that the central California population has been genetically cut off from more northerly populations for over 25,000 years and should be given sub-species status which in turn could allow federal designation as a national endangered species.  None of the breeding birds along the Pacific Slope south of Canada are migratory.  The Yosemite owls will never meet an Oregon cousin.


Union County and Jackson County in Oregon may each have as many GGOs as the entire state of California.  Yet it is unlikely there are as many of the birds in Oregon as there are people in McMinnville, Oregon (33,000).  We should be aware of what is recommended in California and what gets done and what effects that may have.

Washington State has few Great Gray Owls apparently and only a handful of nesting records have ever been confirmed.  The first one in the state did not come until 1991.

If you are interested in Harry Fuller’s book on this species, click here for the link.

If you really want to see one of these owls, in broad daylight, and not in mid-winter  Minnesota, contact PIB about the birding trip to Oregon.


October 24, 2013

The California Condor livecam is not going to show you cute chicks in the nest or cuddly little cubs with their mom. It will show you wild California Condors feeding. Best time to watch is during the morning hours, Pacific Time. This camera is in the Big Sur area of California. Click here for link.
The camera is maintained by the Ventana Wilderness Society which monitors the Big Sur population of condors. There are now over 200 in the wild though there are less than 500 in the world altogether. At one time the condors seemed doomed and all were placed in captivity. The breeding program has now succeeded to the point where the big birds are once again breeding in the wild.
Furthermore, California just banned lead shot which has been the single greatest health threat to these scavengers in the wild. They often find deer and other animals wounded by hunters and then lost, thus ingesting bits of the shattered and scattered lead shot leading to toxic levels of lead poisoning.
Here’s more on the condor cam which went live this week.CONDOR OVERHEAD I took all these condor photos along Hiway 1 in Big Sur while leading a Partnership for International Birding trip there. Nearly every condor carries a visible wing tag so they can monitored. Some also have tiny transmitters so they can be tracked electronically.




An expert from the Ventana Wilderness Society told us this pair was a father and son, often seen hunting together along the Big Sur Coast, sailing high above the Pacific surf. On this day the two came out of the fog, then circled a few times before disappearing back into the fog.
CONDOR4 Condors have the largest wingspan of any North American bird, slightly larger than the White Pelican and often exceeding nine feet. For comparison, your neighborhood Red-tailed Hawk has a wingspan less half that great and the Turkey Vulture’s wingspan is less than two-thirds of a condor’s.
To get your own photos of a soaring condor, come along one of PIB’s California trips.


September 23, 2012

There is a wondwerful series of photos taken by Marilyn Rhodes on our recent Partnership of International Birding trip to California. The trip was sponsored by Denver Audubon. Here’s Marilyn’s series [on Facebook] of two soaring California Condors over our heads along Hwy 1 along the spectacular Big Sur Coast. Click here.

With fewer than 250 individuals in the wild, the California Condor is the rarest bird knwon to still exist in North America. We can only hope the Eskimo Curlew or I-B Woodpecker come along alive to replace the condor, one of the great coonservation success stories of the past two decades. The condors are now successfully breeding in the wild.

When there are no birds about the Big Sur coast does offer some scenery to look at. Click on image above for a full-screen view.