This post examines how the California condor is portrayed in encyclopedias devoted specifically to animals, birds, or nature.
The specialized encyclopedias considered below include both single- and multi-volume works.
Leon Hausman’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Birds was published in 1944. Here are excerpts from the entry for “Condor”:
The great California Condor, or Vulture, is the largest bird of prey in the Western Hemisphere …
It is exceedingly rare, and should be accorded complete protection to save it from extinction.
The drawing accompanying Hausman’s text is shown in the post More black & white illustrations from books: 1944-1996.
Published in 1965, The Audubon Nature Encyclopedia devotes 4 pages to its entry for “Condor”. Only the California species is considered. The entry begins with the facts:
The photos include this montage (credited to Carl Koford):
The text provides an overview of the condor’s natural history and plight, concluding as follows:
The National Audubon Society, California conservationists, and other interested groups and individuals are advocating even stricter protection of these birds, and arousing public sympathy to save a magnificent species from extinction.
K. E. Stager wrote the section of Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (1968) that is devoted to the “Family Cathartides”. Below are excerpts concerning the California condor:
Today it is almost extinct …. This majestic bird has become a victim of the progress of civilization.
Those still surviving are carefully protected, and yet the survival of this magnificent species is in doubt.
A combined range map is provided for the Andean and California species:
The color illustration of the California condor in “Grzimek’s” is shown in the previous post Orphan illustrations.
Funk and Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia, first published in 1969, has a 2-page entry for “Condor”. Given that this encyclopedia is devoted to wildlife, I was surprised by the text’s disparaging tone:
The two condors are as ugly as they are large. Both have the repulsive-looking naked head and neck of the true vultures. The California condor has pink skin on the head and its eyes and ears stand out grotesquely behind the powerful hooked bill.
All of the the entry’s photos are of the Andean condor, as is the range map.
These same photos and map, and nearly the same text, constitute the “Condor” entry in the revised, 1994 edition of The Marshall Cavendish International Wildlife Encyclopedia.
This more recent edition does, however, include this update:
The last wild condor was captured in 1987 to join 26 others in the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. The first egg from a captive pair was laid at last in March 1988.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom (1970) was originally published in Italian. The text concerning the California condor begins with a comparison to the smaller New World vultures, such as the turkey vulture:
Twice as long in both body-length and wingspan, the great California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is North America’s biggest flying bird. It is also, unfortunately, one of the most endangered species of birds in the United States…. Today fewer than 60 of these naked-headed, ruff-necked giants of the air survive in a range restricted to a few remote California mountains.
There is a full-page color photo of the Andean condor but no images concerning the California condor.
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Birds was published in 2009 by Princeton University Press. The 2-page entry for “New World Vultures” was written by Alan Kemp and Ian Newton.
The text explains the controversy over the classification of New World Vultures in a section titled “A Link to the Storks”. In contrast to the older encyclopedias above, the authors are able to provide some good news about the status of the California condor:
… the California condor had declined to just 21 birds by 1983, and became extinct in the wild after the final bird was taken to join 26 others in captivity in 1987. Breeding in cages was so successful, however, that it was possible to release two immatures back into the wild in 1992, and by 1998 there were 147 California condors in the wild …
The color illustration of the California condor from this book is included in the post Still more color illustrations from books 1961-2009.
Readers of this post may also find the post General encyclopedias: 1929-1968 to be of interest.