Stephanie La Loggia, M.A.
Manager of Knowledge Resources
ASU Lodestar Center
Once upon a long time ago, North America was bursting with animals that were really big. Mammoths, mastodons, giant sloths — animals we only know about from their old bones and our good imaginations. The birds were over-sized as well, and when the huge animals died, giant vultures with 20-foot wingspans would swoop down to feast on their carcasses.
And then, they vanished. For reasons scientists still theorize about, most of these large animals went extinct rather quickly. The huge vultures, once plentiful, with all varieties of Eagles, Teratorns, and giant condors, were suddenly hungry. Their food sources gone, the giant vultures soon followed the animals into mass extinction.
Except one: The California Condor.
The California Condor is the sole surviving member of the Gymnogyps genus, a castaway from the Pleistocene epoch. It’s the largest flying bird in North America. If you see one sitting in a tree, you might remark that it is the ugliest bird you’ve ever seen. But when you see it flying, unfettered in the open sky, you’ll undoubtedly think it is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever witness. It has a wingspan of nearly ten feet and can soar for miles without a single flap.