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California Condor Wingspan: How Big It Is & How It Compares to Other Birds

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california condor

Species name Gymnogyps californianus
Population 500
Range California

The California Condor is the largest flying bird species in the US with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet across. The species has been saved from extinction but remains endangered. A member of the vulture family, the California Condor is a record-breaker. Its wingspan is the largest of any US land bird while its size means that it is almost the heaviest native species. It also has one of the longest lifespans of any bird, living as long as 60 years.

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California Condor Wingspan

The California Condor has the largest wingspan of any land-based bird native to the US. The wings can span up to 3 meters, or nearly 10 feet. Unusually for a bird of prey, the male is larger than the female.

  Wingspan Range Average Wingspan
Male California Condor 102-120 inches

260–305 cm

106 inches

270 cm

Female California Condor 98–115 inches

250–292 cm

102 inches

260 cm

California Condor in grand canyon
Image Credit: Georgi Baird, Shutterstock

How Is Wingspan Measured?

Wingspan is measured as the distance between the ends of both wings when fully outstretched. It is difficult to measure, especially with birds in the wild, and it may be affected by the shape of the bird’s wing as well as the wings’ position during flight. The relatively low number of California Condor in the wild also means that it is difficult to get as accurate a range of measurements as it would be with a more populous species.

California Condor Wingspan Compared to Other Birds of Prey

Although the California Condor has a giant wingspan up to 10 feet, meaning that it is often mistaken for a small plane, it is not the longest. There are more than 10 seabirds that eclipse these measurements, as well as one other species of condor.

The Wandering Albatross has a wingspan of 12 feet, approximately 25% larger than the California Condor. Seabirds like the Albatross have longer wings because they enable better soaring and allow the bird to stay airborne for longer, with less effort.

Other than species of albatrosses and pelicans, other birds that have a measurably longer wingspan include the Andean Condor. It has a wingspan of 11 feet.

Also noteworthy is the Trumpeter Swan. The Trumpeter Swan is a seabird that is native to North America. As well as having an 11-foot wingspan, it is the heaviest bird in North America, weighing a scale-topping 40 pounds.

california condor in the ground
Image Credit: Aleksa Georg, Shutterstock
  Wingspan Range Average Wingspan
Wandering Albatross 99-138 inches

250-350 cm

122 inches

310 cm

Great White Pelican 89-132 inches

225-335 cm

110 inches

280 cm

Andean Condor 106-126 inches

270-320 cm

110 inches

280 cm

Trumpeter Swan 102-120 inches

260-305 cm

100 inches

254 cm

Are All Bird Wings the Same?

Although all bird wings are basically the same physical shape, they can differ greatly from one species to the next.

The condor is said to have passive soaring wings, which means that it can fly for miles without having to flap its wings, once in flight. Eagles have a similar wing pattern. The feathers of the wing spread out, and the gaps between the feathers allow the soaring bird to be able to ride air thermals, which are pockets of warm air.

Active soaring wings are as long as passive wings, but they are narrower and do not feature the fanned appearance. These wings benefit from currents of air, rather than thermal pockets, but they also enable the bird to fly long distances without having to flap its wings too often.

Elliptical wings fan out like the passive soaring wings of the California Condor but are much shorter. These wings, which are found on birds like crows and ravens, allow for short bursts of high speed but not prolonged flight. They also help birds like the raven be able to perform incredible aerial acrobatics.

Finally, high-speed wings are shorter than active soaring wings but otherwise look similar. They allow for sustained, high-speed flight. Ducks and falcons both have this type of wing pattern.

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In Conclusion

The California Condor is a giant bird that lives in and California in the US. Its passive soaring wings enable it to fly for long periods, swooping overhead to spot and hunt prey, and with a 10-foot wingspan, it is one of the largest birds in the world and has the biggest wingspan of any land bird in the US, although it is lighter than the Trumpeter Swan.

Featured Image Credit: Barbara Ash, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.