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Is this a turkey vulture, or a California condor?

By Gary Bogue
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 9:06 am in California condors, Turkey vultures.

Immature turkey vulture taking a sun bath. Photo by Frances Rice.
1turkey vulture frances rice

While vacationing at a hotel near Marina Dunes State Park near Monterey, CA,  on Dec. 12, 2011, my husband and I noticed two turkey vultures on the top of sand dunes sunning themselves. A few minutes later another vulture-like bird landed on the sand dunes near the other vultures.

We immediately noticed that the newly arrived bird was not only larger than the two turkey vultures, it also had different coloring around its neck and head. Luckily, we had our cameras ready and started taking photos. The newly arrived bird opened its wings to sun itself as the turkey vultures were doing. It’s wing span was much larger than the size of the turkey vulture’s wing span.

We have researched on the Internet and in bird guides trying to determine what kind of a vulture this is. I’m wondering if it’s a juvenile California condor. I’m emailing a photo to you. Is this a condor? If so, what is their range now?
Frances Rice in cyberspace

The bird in your photo is an immature turkey vulture. That’s why the head is black, not red. California condors are actually MUCH bigger. All California condors also wear large wing bands with special identifying numbers which can be seen easily from above and below. This helps researchers to keep track of them. Best place to see a condor in California is in the Big Sur area. Here’s an Internet file that tells you the best spots to view these enormous birds:

You can get a good look at some condor photos here so you can see what they look like:

Hope this helps! /Gary

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