Sheldon Campbell, a one-time trustee of the San Diego Zoo, closed a 1984 essay about the California condor with this:
My interest in the question posed by this post’s title has to do with how people perceive California condors in comparison to other birds.
When I show an image of a condor to those who are not familiar with them, inevitably I hear reactions such as “gross”, “disgusting”, and “bizarre”. If I tell people that condors make their living eating carrion, these adverse reactions often grow stronger. Articles in newspapers and magazines from the 19th century to the present often describe condors in quite negative terms.
How can California condors possibly compete for favor with elegant swans, regal hawks, and beautifully-colored songbirds?
The factors responsible for the near extinction of the California condor have been debated since the 19th century. Today, the factor considered the greatest threat to condors is the use of lead ammunition by hunters. Condors may be poisoned by lead when they consume “gut piles”, the entrails of deer and other game left behind by hunters.
Among the many other threats to condors that have been reported through the years are the poisons employed to kill agricultural pests and the shooting of condors for their feathers. This has led to defensiveness by trade organizations associated with these activities.