Harold Jones took these photos in Bear Valley Springs of a bird that appeared on his deck — a free-flying California Condor.

Harold explains the experience he had on May 7: "This morning I woke up and looked out my slider and I saw this face staring back at me! He was huge. He walked back and forth on the balcony railing for quite a while. Then he flew onto the roof and stayed up there stretching out those massive wings. We are up in Bear Valley Springs and are used to the ravens, hawks, and occasional turkey vulture sighting, but seeing a condor up close was really something to behold."

Something to behold indeed, Harold. These enormous, intelligent birds are superlative creatures and incredible to see up close. California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus) are the largest wild bird in North America, standing four feet tall with nine-foot wingspans. Adults typically weigh between 16 and 24 pounds. They eat strictly carrion, and their crops can hold three pounds of meat, so they don't have to eat every day. They will eat every two or three days if food is available, but can go for more than two weeks without eating.

They primarily soar without flapping their wings, and they are so big they make smooth, confident circles in the sky overhead, largely impervious to the turbulence and updrafts that can toss around smaller birds.

Condors can see six to eight times better than humans. The center of their field of vision is slightly magnified, enabling them to identify food at far distances. They use entirely their sight, not a sense of smell like Turkey Vultures, to find food.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for California Condor is wokid wükümahaazi, pronounced wah-kid wuh-kuh-mah-HAAZ-eh. It means "chief of the vultures."

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.

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