“Big Bird” Watching
By Dixie Brunner
Bird watching is rapidly becoming a popular past-time for many. While many bird species live in southern Utah and northern Arizona, there’s one really big bird soaring the friendly skies over the Vermilion Cliffs/Grand Canyon area – the rare, majestic California Condor! California Condors are the largest land birds in North America, with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, weighing up to 22 pounds. Adults are grayish-black, except for triangle shaped patches of white underneath their wings, which offer a key identification characteristic. The Condor is a member of the vulture family, and feeds exclusively on dead animals such as deer, cattle, rabbits and large rodents. They often forage for food in social groups, soaring up to 100 miles a day. The Vermilion Cliffs area was chosen as a reintroduction site for the endangered species, due to its remoteness and similarity to the California Condor’s habitat. In 1982, only 22 California Condors were left in the world. With the help of biologists, they now number around 400, with more than half flying free in the wild. The best places to view the California Condors along Highway 89A and facing the Vermilion Cliffs include: Marble Canyon Lodge, Vermilion Cliffs Lodge, Cliff Dweller Lodge, the Dominguez-Escalante Interpretative Area and the House Rock Valley Overlook.