California condors are so big they make eagles look small. Sometimes when flying, they are mistaken for small airplanes. They’re the largest of all North American land birds with a wingspan of more than 9 feet/2.7 meters.
Alas, being big didn’t protect these incredible birds from near-extinction. By 1987 only 22 California condors remained in the world. At that time, experts banded to together to make a critical decision to capture the last of the wild condors and place them in a captive breeding program.
Sixteen years later, the Pinnacles became an official condor recovery site. Currently, park biologists manage more than two dozen condors. Each bird is identified by a three-digit number on its wing tag. The condors come and go freely, often soaring west to Big Sur to mingle with the 30-odd condors that live there. For your best chance to see condors at Pinnacles, hike to the High Peaks in the early morning or early evening. Also scan the skies above the ridge southeast of the campground; spotting scopes are usually set up near the visitor center.