Two species of birds that hold tenuously to survival are expected to benefit from a partnership recently signed between the National Park Service and the Argentine Administracion de Parques Nacionales. Through the partnership, the United States and Argentina will continue to expand on previous work to benefit the future of the California condor and its slightly larger relative, the Andean condor.
Not only do these birds rank at the top of bird species when it comes to size -- the Andean condor is the largest bird species, weighing in at 33 pounds with a 10-foot wingspan as an adult in some cases, while the California condor is the largest bird in North America, coming in at 20 pounds with a 9-foot wingspan -- but they are among the most endangered bird species in the world, according to the National Park Service.
“These two national parks are located in different countries but are connected by their efforts to protect similar resources,” said Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “They have comparable terrain and features, but most importantly, they have both played a vital role in the return of the condor. Due to incredible conservation efforts at and between the parks, the majestic bird once again soars over these areas.”
In Argentina, Dr Patricia Gandini, president of that country's Administracion de Parques Nacionales, says the two parks involved in the agreement "have already shared scientific expertise while working together on condor recovery projects. This pact will enable us to continue to coordinate information and research efforts on common issues including resource protection, educational programs, and community outreach.”
The California condor is the largest North American land bird; it weighs about 20 pounds, is four feet long, has a nine-foot wingspan, and can glide for miles without flapping its wings, according to the National Park Service. By 1982, only 22 existed, and a conservation plan was hatched to capture and breed the species. Today, Pinnacles National Monument is home to 28 of 189 free-flying California condors, according to the agency.
The Andean condor is the largest flying bird on earth and shares many physical attributes with its cousin the California condor. It is a national symbol of Argentina and plays an important role in South American folklore and mythology, according to the Park Service. Local conservation efforts have ensured that this powerful, yet threatened, bird will continue to roam the skies.
Here are two short videos that profile these majestic birds. The first is from Utah, the second from Peru.
If you go to Pinnacles National Monument in search of condors, here's some advice from the park staff:
There are currently 23 free-flying adult and juvenile condors in Pinnacles National Monument. They have commingled with the 22 condors in the Big Sur flock and have effectively become one central California flock. Condors do not migrate and are observed in this area year round. They move frequently within their expanding territory, so they may not always be seen inside the monument.
Pinnacles' condors have now ranged as far as Livermore to the north, Santa Barbara County to the south, and west to the Big Sur coast.
If you are going to visit Pinnacles and you hope to see a condor, one of the most likely viewing areas is the High Peaks in the early morning or early evening. The High Peaks can be reached from either entrance to the park, but keep in mind that hiking to the High Peaks is strenuous. Please carry and drink plenty of water, wear layered clothing, and be prepared for temperature extremes.
Another location that the condors spend time around is the ridge just south of the campground. Condors are often observed soaring on the morning thermals along the ridge and coming in to roost on their favorite trees in the evenings. Two spotting scopes have been placed in the Campground (on the Bench Trail near Pinnacles Visitor Center) that may help you get a closer look at these magnificent birds.
Remember that our condors are free-flying, which means there is no guarantee you will see one on a given day at a given time.
This is the first sister park partnership to form under an official Memorandum of Understanding signed between the National Park Service and the Administracion de Parques Nacionales in 1997. The agencies hope that today’s bi-lateral agreement is the first step in reinvigorating cooperation in park matters between the two nations.
The National Park Service currently has 37 sister park relationships between U.S. and foreign protected areas that share similar natural or cultural resources and/or management issues.