Endangered California condors have been spotted in Sequoia National Park for the first time in nearly 50 years as the giant birds reclaim historic habitat lost when the species teetered on the brink of extinction.
Condors were observed atop the towering granite dome of Moro Rock in late May, the National Park Service said Tuesday.
Condors fitted with GPS transmitters were also tracked flying around Giant Forest, according to Dave Meyer, a California condor biologist with the Santa Barbara Zoo.
The birds are scavengers and they almost died out in large part due to ingesting lead in the carcasses of animals shot by hunters.
“Condors were consistently seen throughout the parks until the late 1970s. Observations became increasingly rare throughout the latter portion of the century as the population declined,” said Tyler Coleman, a wildlife biologist with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
In the early 1980s, all 22 birds remaining in the wild were trapped and brought into a captive-breeding program that began releasing condors into Southern California’s Los Padres National Forest in 1992.
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That flock has been expanding its range while other condors now occupy parts of California’s Central Coast, Arizona, Utah and Baja California. The total wild population now numbers about 340 birds.