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Condor exhibit opening at Oregon Zoo

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The Oregon Zoo, located in Portland, has always been a well-kept exhibit of the wildest of animals. From seals to chimps, lizards to elephants, the zoo is a place to see it all.

Every year, changes are made throughout the zoo. Whether it’s changing up the animals on display or building a new habitat for the creatures that reside there, the Oregon Zoo keeps it new, alive and interesting.

The latest addition comes to the zoo with high hopes that visitors may learn more about the largest bird on the continent – the condor.

Condors of the Columbia” habitat opened its doors on Thursday.

Explorers of the Pacific Northwest area, such as Meriwether Lewis, kept journal entries where the “buzzards of the Columbia” were mentioned. Condors were a common sight back then and now have become a scarce sight in the wild.

The latest addition to the zoo was built with money stemming from a 2008 bond campaign. Condors have been bred at the zoo since 2003. A national California Condor Recovery Program set up in 2003 is at the base of the condor’s survival. It was estimated that there were only 22 condors in the wild, but since the program was implemented, the population of condors has exceeded 400.

Condors are known as intelligent birds and each seems to display a certain personality to both the environment around them and the people caring for them.

Zoo members will be able to visit the condor exhibit on Friday and the exhibit opens to all visitors on Saturday.

Condors are the largest of the flying birds residing in the western hemisphere. Andean condors thrive in the Andean mountains and the California condors live in the coastal mountains of the western portion of the US and into Mexico.

The Andean Condor has a larger wingspan than the California condor and comes in second to the Wandering Albatross. Wingspans of the California condor are commonly 9.5 feet across, where the Andean species has a larger wingspan, ranging from 8.99 to 10.17 feet.

The condor’s neck and head is left almost bare of feathers to enable the bird to keep good hygiene around these areas it cannot reach during preening. The condors are kept “sterilized” in these regions due to the solar ultraviolet light available at high altitudes.

The talons of the condor are fairly straight. The feet and legs have adapted to walking, such as seen in their relatives, the storks. The talons are not used as weapons as found in many birds of prey.

Scientists have found fossils from the Pleistocene era of the condor family, leading them to believe that California condors once thrived on the west coast of North America and all the way to the eastern coast. These fossils also indicate that the ancient relative of the condor, the Argentavis magnificens of South America, might have been the largest flying bird in history, with a massive wingspan of 23 feet.

If you’re interested in visiting the Oregon Zoo, visit their website at http://www.oregonzoo.org/visit.

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