The hike ~  South Rim of the Grand Canyon, early spring ice still on the Blue Angel Trail. I scan the cliffs, snags and Douglas firs below for one of the rarest birds on Earth, the Gymnogyps californianus, hauled back from the abyss of extinction.

My wildest imaginings do come true.  Sometimes at arm’s length.

Meet A7.


I gawk at her.  She rotates her head atop a collar of poofy feathers and pins her beady eyes on me.

A7 is a four-year-old condor with a nine-foot wingspan.  She hails from Idaho where she was raised by her ‘momma’, a puppet bird.

A7 was fed and reared in captivity until she proved herself capable of independent survival, then introduced (that’s ‘released’ to the rest of us) into the wild. Lately, she’s taken to raiding dumpsters and hanging out with folks like me.

A7 is most likely going to rehab. Her ranger buddy is way smarter about these birds than I am. He says there’s a program just for her kind ~ one that will set her straight. She needs to start pulling her own weight in nature’s cleaning crew and scavenge her own carrion. Sooner than later.

A7’s Bird Buddy Ranger comin’ for to carry her home.


A curious condor, that A7.  And it gets her into trouble. The ranger makes it clear to me ~ if you’re lucky enough to see a perched condor, don’t feed it. And, yes, be a stool pigeon and tell the park staff. Someone will come and haze it away to a safer perch. And do a bit of people management, too.

A7 is under the care and coddling of Big Brother. She wears a numbered tag and a miniature GPS device. Every detail of her (mis)behavior is recorded in the online log. The log also tracks her breeding activity, documents her flight patterns, and describes her roosting progress.

The Grand Canyon is a blessing and curse for condors like A7. The park is protected and has millions of acres but plenty of people share this space. All the problems that plague condors are human-related. Ultimately, their survival rests on you and me.

Lots of BIG here ~

Big Canyon, Big Brother, and those Really Big Birds.

Toni 10/14/21