The Times (of London): 1919-2007

To further demonstrate the worldwide interest in the California condor, this post notes 10 articles published in the leading British newspaper, The Times, and the separately-titled Sunday Times. These articles, spanning nearly a century, consider the condor from a variety of perspectives.

Below are article excerpts followed, in some cases, by my comments.

“Duel in the Air: Vulture and Rattlesnake” (1 June 1919)

While exploring the Cocopah Mountains of Lower California a party of an American exploring mission recently witnessed a duel to the death between a California vulture and a rattlesnake….

Versions of this ridiculous story also appear in other newspapers of the time. No author is credited.

“Future of the Kite in Britain” (27 March 1939)

The ultimate extinction of the heath hen … in the last decade was probably due to inbreeding, and the same thing may decide the fate of the Californian condor, of which between 40 and 50 wild specimens remain alive to-day.

This uncredited article reported on a meeting of the Association of Bird Watchers and Wardens.

“Bird Exploration” (23 June 1951)

In the Natural History Museum now, there is, for example, no bird … indisputably from any of Captain Cook’s voyages…. [Another museum], however, has a number of eighteenth-century collections of great interest … [including] the Californian condor brought back to England in 1795 by Archibald Menzies ….

This article argues for continuing the collection of bird specimens around the world. It is noted that many early specimens have been lost due to poor preservation but some old specimens, such as the “type specimen” of the California condor, survive.

“The Vanishing Animals” (11 November 1962)

The past 50 years have seen a staggering decrease in the number of many kinds of wild animals…. It has reached the point where those on this page are in danger of following the dodo into extinction.

Californian condor: A huge vulture …. It has no enemies but man. The transformation of wild country into fruit farms has reduced its food supply. Now only about 75 left in the mountains of Southern California.

This piece, labeled “mainly for children”, includes brief descriptions of 16 animals, each accompanied by an illustration. The text is by noted ornithologist Peter Scott and the illustrations are by Maurice Wilson.

“California Condor in Danger” (9 November 1964)

A campaign to save the California condor, the “thunderbird” of the Indians and probably the largest bird that flies … has been begun by the National Audubon Society. Once common to all the west coast states, the south-west, and the Gulf, condors now number 40 ….

“In for Life” (24 October 1971)

Macdonald is himself a militant on the question of conservation. He has protested and written copiously against oil spillage on the Santa Barbara coast, and pleads passionately for the preservation of the wilderness near his home where the few remaining pairs of Californian condor breed.

This profile of Ross Macdonald, the prolific writer of crime novels, is by Philip Oakes.

“Flight of the Condor to Oblivion” (12 April 1982)

The trouble with nature is it never conforms to expectations…. The California condor … is an example of a creature that might be described as one of nature’s mistakes even when it is apparently behaving as nature intended: soaring high on thermal air currents …; gorging itself on carrion …; nesting on sheer cliff faces; and living for 50 years or more ….

Despite its manifest unfitness for modern life, the California condor is one of those animals … that brings out the human protective instinct. Millions are spent on its preservation, while the lowly shrub whose oil might fuel our motor cars or the obscure species of lizard whose hormonal secretions might cure cancer are allowed to languish and disappear without a murmur.

This item was written by Tony Samstag.

“Floppy Flight of the Condors” (25 January 1987)

Two university professors in San Diego are carrying around the fate of the near-extinct California condor on a floppy disc….

This article, by Dewey Gram, considers the computer analysis by Mike Gilpin and Mike Soule [Soulé] for choosing “the genetically ideal mating combinations” for California condors in captivity.

“The Creatures Unlikely to Survive Another Year of Attrition” (3 January 1996)

The other species facing extinction in the new year include … the Californian condor of which only four are left in the wild ….

This uncredited article is misleading as the 4 birds referred to had recently been released from the captive breeding population.

“Scientists Wait at Rare Bird’s Nest for That Condor Moment” (4 April 2007)

A Californian condor has laid an egg in Mexico for the first time since the 1930s ….

The birth of a condor, … featured on the coats of arms of several South American countries, would help to reintroduce the massive scavengers to the skies of Mexico several decades after being wiped out there.

The population of Californian condors has been devastated by a shortage of seals and otters to feed on.

While the news here is positive, this article, by Chris Ayres, is a, to use the British phrase, “dog’s breakfast”. South American countries adopted the Andean condor, a different species, as their symbol. While California condors do feed on dead seals and otters that wash ashore, insufficient numbers of these carcasses was not a major factor in the condors’ decline. The article includes other odd statements.

For more about the California condor from British publications, see the post Interest from Great Britain: 1833-1987.