17 October 2014

Birds of California - The Vulture Family

"The Vulture family is represented in our Sate by the Californian Vulture and the Turkey Buzzard, and perhaps by Burrough's Vulture (Cathartes Burrovianus) which last bird is found in lower California, and probably crosses over into our State, at least occasionally.

"The California Vulture (Cathartes Californianus) sometimes improperly called 'Condor," the largest bird on the continent, and next to the Condor the largest flying bird of the world, is found in all parts of the State, though it is not abundant in any place. It is as prominent and peculiar a feature among the birds of California as the grizzly bear among the quadrupeds. It is very shy and is rarely killed. The total length of the Californian Vulture is about four feet; and its width from tip to tip of the out-stretched wings, ten feet or more. Its color is brownish black, with a white stripe across the wings. The head and neck are bare, and red and yellow in color. The bill is yellowish white and the iris carmine. Dr. Newberry says 'A portion of every day's experience in our march through the Sacramento valley, was a pleasure in watching the graceful evolutions of this splendid bird. Its flight is easy and effortless, almost beyond that of any other bird. As I sometimes recall the characteristic scenery of California, those interminable stretches of waving grain, with here and there, between the rounded hills, orchard-like clumps of oak, a scene so solitary and yet so homelike, over these oat-covered plains and slopes, golden yellow in the sunshine, always floats the shadow of the vulture.'

"A fine living specimen of this bird, and the only capture of its kind that we know of, may be seen in the Pacific Museum in this city; and there is a fine, colored, life-like plate (No. 426) of it, in Audubon's Ornithology, which may be seen in the Mercantile Library."


June 2, 1859. Birds of California - No. 1. Daily Alta California 11(152): 1.