Posted by: atowhee | February 8, 2014


I have just been reading a fascinating book by Jack Nisbet, VISIBLE BONES. It ranges across many nature topics, all focused on the Columbia River Valley. His chapter on the historic records of the California Condor in the Columbia Basin is fascinating.
Here in Oregon the last known sighting of a condor actually was in the Umpqua River Valley and surrounding mountains. It was there more than a century ago the last condor sighting occurred in Oregon (1904). It’s time we saw them again.
19th Century accounts make it clear that the condor was once plentiful along the coast and in the Columbia, Willamette and Umpqua River Valleys. The big birds were irresistible to any man with a gun. Lewis and Clark, David Douglas, John Kirk Townsend and numerous other explorers bagged specimens in Oregon. Earlier Captain Vancouver’s expedition killed one in the Monterey area and took it back to London.
The Native Americans had always hunted the bird, prized for its huge feathers and the large hollow quills. But rifle and then poisoned carcasses left to kill wolves did in the condors. The modern struggle to bring the bird back in the wild is a familiar story to American birders.
The Yurok tribe is trying to get federal approval to release condors over their territory along the Trinity River in northern California. If that happens it is quite likely some Oregonian will be seeing the “beautiful buzzard of the Columbia” soaring overhead once again.

You can click on this sentence to visit the Yuroks’ website on their program to return the condor to the Trinity River Valley as a move to help heal the planet. I wish them and the condors success.

The image shows father and son condors in flight over the coast of Big Sur, an area where these largest North American birds are seen regularly now.


  1. The California Condor in Northwestern North America Brian E. Sharp

    western birds, vol. 43-2

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