Day of the Condor


If you arrive at the right spot in southern Utah early enough, you might see some of the largest and rarest birds in the world soaring directly over your head.

On June 20, the Division of Wildlife Resources will host its annual California condor viewing event. Dubbed “The Day of the Condor,” the free event runs from 8 a.m. to noon at an area 21½ miles north of Virgin in southwestern Utah.

Those who were at the event by 8 a.m. last year were treated to the sight of nearly 20 condors soaring in the sky above them.

You can see what others saw at last year’s event by viewing a free video at www.youtube.com/user/UDWR. An audio interview about the event is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/radio.

To reach the viewing site, take Route 9 to Virgin. Then turn off Route 9 at the Kolob Reservoir turnoff in Virgin, and travel north through Zion National Park. The viewing site is 21½ miles from Virgin near Kolob Reservoir.

After you’ve traveled 21½ miles, look for DWR officers directing cars into a parking area on the south side of the road.

Biologists from the DWR, the National Park Service and the Peregrine Fund will be available to answer your questions. Free information about condors will also be available.

Zion National Park will not charge an entrance fee on June 20. After seeing the condors, you might want to consider spending the rest of the day at the park.

A condor viewing hotspot

“Condor activity in Utah has increased dramatically over the past five years,” says Keith Day, regional sensitive species biologist for the DWR. “It’s not unusual to see 24 birds in Utah in the summer months, but 54 condors were here one day last August.

“That’s very exciting when you consider how rare this bird is,” Day says. “Of the 320 California condors in the world, just over half are free flying, and only half of those are found in Utah and Arizona.

“That means on any given day, you have the potential of seeing one-sixth of the world’s wild population of California condors right here in southern Utah.”

A large and unique bird

The California condor is the largest flying bird in the Northern Hemisphere. Its body is about 4 to 5 feet long from head to tail. That makes the bird impressive to see, even when it isn’t flying. With a wingspan of about 9½ feet, and weighing between 16 and 23 pounds, they’re especially impressive in flight.

Adults are a dull black with white coloring under their wings. Their bald heads are covered with yellow, orange and red skin.

Young condors have a black head and don’t have the white underwings the adults have. But they’re about the same size as the adults. They’re just as impressive to see on the ground or in the air.

Taking care of their young

Condors usually reach maturity when they’re 6 to 7 years old. When they reach that age, they choose a mate. They’ll remain with that mate for the rest of their life.

Condors usually lay a single egg on the floor of a small cave or crevice on the side of a cliff. Both parents help incubate the egg. It takes about 56 days for the egg to hatch.

After the egg hatches, the young condor will remain in its cave for about two to three months. Then it will venture out, but it won’t fledge (take its first flight) until it’s five or six months old.

The young condor’s parents will take care of it for a full year, and sometimes even longer. Because of their devotion to their young, the condor pair may nest every two years instead of every year.

For more information about the Day of the Condor viewing event, call the DWR’s Southern Region office at (435) 865-6100.