Wildlife is a wonder to behold, and to be graced by the presence of an endangered species can be an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, such encounters aren’t always wholly pleasurable, as one homeowner in the city of Tehachapi, California, recently found out when a flock of critically endangered California condors descended on their property. As the largest flying bird in America, it’s perhaps not all that surprising that the mob of rare visitors was able to unleash such carnage. That’s probably not all that much of a consolation, mind, as you find yourself faced with upwards of 20 birds worth of poop to scrape off your home.
While having a winged gang of critically endangered birds waging war with your decking is far from ideal, Seana Lyn – the homeowner’s daughter – was able to find a silver lining to the condor cloud. “Still wild to me that in my lifetime there went from being about 25 condors left alive to now almost that many descending on my moms house at once,” wrote Lyn on Twitter. “Makes me wonder if we will start seeing more giant flocks as their numbers rise (I’ve only ever seen 3-4 by her house before)”
California condors are important to Native American cultures – but when European settlements began to move across North America, their numbers went into decline. Their dwindling population grappled with lead poisoning as a result of feeding on carcasses that had been hunted with lead-based ammunition. They were added to the US endangered species list in 1967, but remarkably have crept back from the bring thanks to a breeding program.
These huge carnivores have wingtips stretching three meters (ten feet) and are known for their circling flight behavior that can see them cruising at over 4,500 meters (15,000 feet). Lyn’s mother can attest to this, as the condor mob was seen circling ominously overhead, no doubt eyeing up some more pots to turn over.
Having witnessed the mayhem on Twitter, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stepped in to offer an explanation as to why this flock had descended on the property.
The USFWS suggested that should the birds return, it would be best to employ some hazing techniques that wouldn’t harm the critically endangered animals, including water hoses, yelling, clapping, and shouting. Such strategies are important for reducing human-animal conflicts where, while an animal’s behavior may be perfectly natural, it might be worth trying to safely mitigate damage.
It seems, unfortunately for Lyn’s mother, these particular birds weren’t too fussed about shouting or the “shower” they gratefully received when the hose was unleashed. Despite the unfortunate trashing, Lyn remains a fan of the unexpected visitors and even celebrated the news that their presence (if not a little chaotic) is evidence for the species’ improving population.
I suppose if you're going to get your decking wrecked, you might as well tick off a great wildlife encounter in the process.