Wednesday, 20 July 2011


- A great black bird sitting crucified on the cross-trees, its wings so vast it obscures the foremast light; the Captain calls us to see it, says : I will not shoot the eagle , or anything, I never kill anything, but - "Shoot it ! I should damned well think not!" says Primrose. It is a condor ( Gymnogyps Californianus) with a 10 half foot wing-spread, and the sight one of the rarest in the world, for the bird, a sort of super-xopolite or vulture by Thomas Wolfe, is almost extinct, after a while it has vanished, as mysteriously as it arrived
Through The Panama

Malc and Margerie were keen birdwatchers. Many species of birds pervade Malc's writings. The condor in 'Through The Panama' appears to evoke the memory of the Mexican vultures (xopolite) who have a sinister presence in Under The Volcano.

The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a North American species of bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae and the largest North American land bird. Currently, this condor inhabits only the Grand Canyon area, Zion National Park, and western coastal mountains of California and northern Baja California. Although other fossil members are known, it is the only surviving member of the genus Gymnogyps.

It is a large, black vulture with patches of white on the underside of the wings and a largely bald head with skin color ranging from yellowish to a bright red, depending on the bird's mood. It has the largest wingspan of any bird found in North America and is one of the heaviest, weighing up to 29lbs. The condor is a scavenger and eats large amounts of carrion. It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 60 years.

Condor numbers dramatically declined in the 20th century due to poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction. Eventually, a conservation plan was put in place by the United States government that led to the capture of all 22 remaining wild condors in 1987. These surviving birds were bred at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. Numbers rose through captive breeding and, beginning in 1991, condors have been reintroduced into the wild. The project is the most expensive species conservation project ever undertaken in the United States. The California Condor is one of the world's rarest bird species. As of April 2011, there are 394 condors known to be living, including 181 in the wild.

The condor is a significant bird to many Californian Native American groups and plays an important role in several of their traditional myths.
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