Condors of the Columbia

Return of the Thunderbird

Stretching 10 feet from wingtip to wingtip, they were known to some Native American tribes as "Thunderbirds." During Lewis and Clark's time, they soared above the Columbia River and congregated at whale carcasses on the Oregon Coast. But by the 1980s, the California condor had all but disappeared. Though native to Oregon, condors have not been documented in the state for more than a century. The Oregon Zoo hopes to change that.

Condors of the Columbia

In May, 2013 the zoo broke ground on Condors of the Columbia, a new habitat for adult birds from the zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation condor recovery program that cannot be released in the wild. For the first time, Oregon Zoo visitors will have the unique opportunity to see these colorful, intelligent and highly endangered birds and learn about the survival challenges they face.

Habitat features will include:

  • an aviary more than 30 feet tall and 100 feet long in which condors will fly
  • a lush, native landscape with boulders, trees and log snags for condors to perch
  • a cascading water feature with deep pool for condor bathing
  • two covered visitor viewing areas, one elevated, where visitors can get rare up-close views of condors

Condors of the Columbia will tell the story of condors' historic fall and current rise and the challenges these birds face today from lead and trash in their environment. It will also guide visitors through the zoo's decade-long condor recovery effort in conjunction with the United States Fish and Wildife Service, San Diego Wildlife Park, the Los Angeles Zoo, and many other partners.

The zoo anticipates opening Condors of the Columbia in spring, 2014. Follow the Conservation Blog for the updates on California condors and all of the Oregon Zoo's species recovery efforts.