National Geographic Society magazines

For decades, the various magazines published by the National Geographic Society have brought the richness of our world to adults and children.

This post considers appearances by the California condor in the Society’s magazines during the 20th century.

A number of images from National Geographic Society magazines have appeared in previous posts to this blog. Links to these earlier posts are provided at the end of this post.

The July 1933 issue of National Geographic Magazine included “The Eagle, King of Birds, and His Kin”, a substantial article by Alexander Wetmore. The author was an expert on birds, living and extinct, and later served as the head of the Smithsonian Institution.

Wetmore’s article begins with an overview of the birds known collectively, at the time, as the Falconiformes. The California condor is referred to at several points in this general discussion.

The article then moves to detailed consideration of each of a number of species, including the condor. Here are excerpts:

Formerly quite abundant … possibly ten individuals still exist in California. Little is know of them in Baja California … But it is certain that few remain, and the species is one that may easily become extinct.

By those who penetrate its haunts, the condor is confused with no other bird…. Its enormous size and the broad sweep of its wings distinguish it almost at a glance when it is far distant.

The California condor in historic times ranged from the Columbia River south along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and from Humboldt County … through the Coast Ranges into northern Baja California …

Fine black and white photos of the condor by William and Irene Finley support the article. But the image that is the highlight is a beautiful painting of California condors by Allan Brooks.

John H Baker’s “Saving Man’s Wildlife Heritage” appeared in the November 1954 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

The section of this article devoted to the California condor concerned Carl Koford’s recently-completed research on the species. Here’s an excerpt:

Nearly all the 60 remaining condors nest or roost in a portion of the Los Padres National Forest in California … Since their young are unable to fend for themselves for some 15 months, condors normally nest only every other year. Apparently only about five young are successfully raised each year. The number of each sex alive is unknown. About 20 are immature.

Baker’s article included this classic photo taken by Koford:

The National Geographic School Bulletin of 16 February 1970 includes “Doom Stalks Giant Bird”.

This article consists of a spectacular color photo and brief text, including:

Like a mighty shadow from the past a condor spreads wings to a ten-foot span as he joins his mate in the morning sun of California’s Sespe Condor Sanctuary….

Once these great, voiceless birds spread over much of North America. But through the ages man has depleted their numbers. Indians sacrificed them during religious ceremonies. Gold miners killed them and used the large quills as containers for gold dust.

Today only 60 to 80 condors survive….

Conservationists fight for the bird’s protection. Yet there are plans for a road through the middle of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, a dam on its border, and a recreation center.

Wildlife experts believe that more and more people entering this nesting area would doom the remaining condors.

The photo above, by Jeff Foote, appeared as part of an advertisement for Canon cameras that was published in the February 1986 issue of National Geographic.

This is the ad copy:

Finally, National Geographic World, another publication for children, published “Comeback Trail of the California Condor” in November 1989.

Among the many great photos in this article is this:

That photo was credited to the Zoological Society of San Diego.

There has never been a feature article about the California Condor in the National Geographic Society’s flagship magazine. However, the condor has made other appearances in the Society’s magazines and in books published by the Society.

Critically, the National Geographic Society funded critical research on the California condor. These contributions will make for a good future post.

To see a reprint of the painting of the California condor by Allan Brooks noted above, visit the post More color illustrations from books: 1912-2010.

A cropped version of the photo by Carl Koford shown above was circulated as an AP news photo. That photo and its caption is in the post Close-up news photos: 1935-1980.

The color photo in “Doom Stalks Giant Bird” may be seen in the post Color photos from journals & magazines: 1967-1988.

Another photo from “Comeback Trail of the California Condor” is part of the post Comeback.