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Condor: To the Brink and Back--The Life and…

Condor: To the Brink and Back--The Life and Times of One Giant Bird

by John Nielsen

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A book about giant flying scavengers that didn’t gross me out!

If you’re squeamish, you may not be attracted to a book on a really large birds that eats dead animals carcasses. When the opening paragraph compares trapping these birds to waiting in a shallow grave, you may consider if you have the stomach for this material. But if you can read with an objective eye, you may be rewarded by this fascinating account of the project that prevented the extinction of the California condor.

Written in a journalist style for lay readers, this book is not a natural history primer. Enough science is included for the lay reader to understand what the biologists and wildlife managers are doing but readers are not overwhelmed with technical details. Individuals (people and birds) are featured to personalize the story.

I found particularly interesting how condors in re-established populations had been impacted by the human manipulation. Birds raised by people, even when people tried to raise them as much like condors as possible, did not act in the same ways the old “wild” condors did before we trapped them for captive breeding. It seems that while people managed to prevent their extinction, we caused condors to lose the cultural knowledge parents taught offspring about how to act like a “wild” condors. While we claim to have saved the species, we may not have saved all the qualities of the wild condors we hoped to perpetuate for the future. This raises interesting questions about animal behavior and learning, our relationship to wild species, and the true nature of “wildness.” ( )
  WildMaggie | Sep 8, 2008 |
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Traces the history of the California condor, describing its life in prehistoric times, its dwindling numbers throughout the past ten thousand years, its multiple rescues from the verge of extinction, and its prospects today.

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