Among the reasons why California condors attract the interest of humans is the birds’ exceptional size. But don’t take my word for it. For this post I searched my bibliography for items with titles that refer to the California condor as big or large.
Together, these articles and books tell their own version of the story of condors and humans.
Organizing this “big/large” subset of my bibliography meant filtering out titles referring to Big Sur (condor habitat), big game hunting (a food source for condors), big efforts (to save the condor from extinction), and the like. I also filtered out titles referring to large fossils (of extinct relatives of the condor), large forest fires (in condor habitat), large museum collections (of eggs), and the like.
I definitely checked to make sure all items referred to the California, and not the Andean, condor.
The articles and books below are just a selection of the articles and books in my big/large bibliography subset.
From the Los Angeles Herald I found articles titled “A big bird” (16 February 1891) and “Big birds” (1 April 1901). From the New York Times I found “A big young condor arrives at the zoo” (17 March 1905) and from the Sunday Telegraph of London “Claws out in battle of big bird” (20 May 2001).
Titles of magazine articles include “… And the big bird that didn’t” (Science News 20 November 2004), “The big birds are back” (Backpacker September 2005), and “Big birds flying across the sky” (Arizona Highways August 2013).
Noted condor biologist Sanford R. Wilbur is the author of the book Condor Tales: What I Learned in Twelve Years with the Big Birds (Symbios 2004).
Big is one thing. What about biggest? In Arms and the Man magazine I found “Killing off our biggest bird of prey” (02 January 1908) and in Fortnight magazine “The world’s biggest bird” (January 1956). The latter states:
Of the flying birds, the California condor, with an approximate wingspread of 10 feet, holds the world record.
Sometimes, big is large. On 18 June 1861, the Sacramento Daily Union published “A large bird”. On 25 November 1882, the Los Angeles Times published “Large condor killed”.
For some reason, there were more items titled “largest” than those titled big, biggest, or large. Here is just a sampling: “Largest flying bird in the world” (Los Angeles Times 28 August 1932), “Nest of largest bird is found in California” (Popular Science October 1925), and the book Man and the California Condor: The Embattled History and Uncertain Future of North America’s Largest Free-Living Bird by Ian McMillan (Dutton 1968).
During my search for big and large, a couple other titles caught my eye. “The big three” published in volume 31 of Cassinia is about the ivory-billed woodpecker, California condor, and trumpeter swan. “Fight to save our three largest birds”, from the Iowa City Press-Citizen for 7 November 1956, is about the trumpeter swan, whooping crane, and California condor. (Now I am wondering how often the California condor is considered in groups of three.)