Against the odds, the California Condor today soars over the Grand Canyon. These condors were plentiful in Arizona during the Pleistocene (50,000-10,000 years ago), but changing habitat and food sources reduced the population by the time European explorers came here in the 1500s. By the late 1800s, gold miners killed many of the remaining condors for their feathers, and entrepreneurs took their eggs to satisfy a Victorian fad for egg collecting. In 1924, the last Arizona condor was sighted in Williams, 60 miles south of the park.
By the 1980s, the remaining west-coast condors were dying from ingesting man-made poisons, flying into power lines, or eating animal carcasses that had lead bullets still within the flesh. 22 individuals were all that could be found, and a captive breeding program was begun to try to save the species. In 1996, the first California Condors were released into the wild. Two breeding populations have now been established: one here in Arizona, and one in Central California. They have had to learn how to be "wild," and there have been failures -- but the 50 California Condors that now fly over the Grand Canyon testify to the cautious success of the program.
Note: This photo is three views of the same bird. I once saw six flying at the same time, but more often I only saw one or two, if I saw any.
Here are other images of the Grand Canyon. Mouse over the image for more information, and, as usual, click for a larger image:
Grand Canyon Images
Bright Angel Trail Images