By the 1980s, the California Condor population was in crisis, and extinction in the wild seemed imminent. The dramatic decline of condors in the 20th century has been attributed to shooting, poisoning, electric power lines, egg collecting, and habitat loss. In 1987, the last wild California Condor was taken into captivity to join the 26 remaining condors in an attempt to bolster the population through a captive breeding program. At that time, it was uncertain whether or not North America's largest flying land bird (by wingspan, 9.5 feet) would ever again soar in the wild.
Oakland Zoo’s Condor Cam, sponsored by FedEx, is situated in the Steve and Jackie Kane Condor Recovery Center on the grounds of Oakland Zoo. The rehabilitation center is designed for treatment and recovery of sick or injured California condors from the wild. Upon the bird's recovery, they will be returned to their natural habitat. In 2012, Oakland Zoo linked up with the California Condor Recovery Program. This partnership is significant because ill birds found in Big Sur or Pinnacles National Park can now be transported to a wildlife hospital that is much closer in proximity. Prior to the Oakland Zoo partnership, the nearest Veterinary hospital for condor care was in the Los Angeles Zoo, which is also a participant of the Condor Recovery Program.
Condors do not kill for food; they are carrion eaters and prefer to feed on the carcasses of large mammals including deer, marine mammals such as whales and seals, and cattle. A condor may eat up to 3 to 4 pounds of carrion at a time and may not need to feed again for several days. Condors find their food by sight or by following other scavenging birds. Condors normally feed in a group where a strict dominance hierarchy is followed. Dominant birds usually eat first and take the choicest parts of the carcass.
The female lays a single pale aqua-colored egg, which initially weighs approximately 280 grams (10 ounces) and generally measures 110 x 67 mm (4.4 x 2.7 inches). If an egg is lost to breakage or predators early enough in the breeding season, the pair will often produce a replacement egg in 4 to 5 weeks, a practice known as "double clutching."
Parents alternate incubating the egg, each often staying with the egg for up to several days at a time.
The chick hatches after 54 to 58 days of incubation. The parents share duties in feeding and brooding (warming) the chick. Chicks are fed partially digested food regurgitated from the adult's crop. Flight feathers are fully developed at about six months of age. The chick is dependent on its parents for one to two years as it learns to forage and feed on its own in the wild.