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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Mighty Condor

Air Date: Week of

The California condor, though still endangered, was on the brink of extinction until recently. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

The California condor was on the verge of extinction due to lead poisoning. Then the US Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in. Now, with more than 400 birds in the wild, the condor is making a big comeback. As Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender reports, when it comes to Condors, big is the operative word.


BASCOMB: Just a few short decades ago, the California condor was on the verge of extinction. The Condors ate carcasses with lead bullets in them and were dying en masse from lead poisoning. Then the US Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in. Now, with over 400 in the wild, the condor is making a big comeback. And as Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender reports, when it comes to condors, big is the operative word.

El Condor Pasa
California Condor
Pinnacles National Park
© 2019 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

LENDER: Condor, bigger than a barndoor, blows on by. Wings outstretched and motionless to the naked eye. Tail feathers spread like fingers, she keeps her trim. Listen to the music of those wings, in wind. Crackling like parchment wrinkled and torn -

Condor! Air borne!

Working the thermals she spirals up and out and around again for a better look. Orderly. Curious. All life to her is an open book. Intelligent. Penurious. Her only wealth derives from that of which all life must part.

Down (the direction where she feeds).

Up (the angle that she flies).

Never hurried, never too late

She only eats when someone dies.

Well-apprised, of all the perils flesh is heir to she reads the Auguries of your Fate:

The head of the California condor is hot to the touch. Their body temperature runs 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Lack of a fair shake
Lost in a place where water is the exception
A bad break
Bad directions
The stain of lard on your cardigan and a middle that obfuscates toes and feet (proceeding from a confluence of daytime sleep and midnight eat)
Too much emotional freight
Up too early, home too late
Foreclosure and other forms of modern distress (these are the hands lay heavy on the chest)
A face filled with Anger, with Hate
A fast car (Inadequate brakes)
Gain without Pain
No modulation
Thin Ice
No vacation.
A Bolt from the Blue
Too Much Red Ink,
Too Much to Drink,
Too Much Action
Not Enough “THINK!”

Here I stand at the edge of this cliff wondering is she wondering how good my footing really is? Light catches her eye in a certain way, her silent reply:

The wingspan of a California candor can reach 10 feet (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

“I know you, I know your thoughts and where they lead. Have no fear. No lasting harm will come to you. Only to that part that has already passed away.”

BASCOMB: That’s Living on Earth Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender.



Mark Seth Lender’s website


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