California Condors Returning to the Wild

It’s hard to believe that the California condor—the largest North American land bird, weighing in at 26 pounds and living up to 60 years—was once dangerously close to extinction. Today, thanks to strenuous conservation efforts, there are 550 California condors, with more than half flying free in Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico.

One organization devoted to protecting the California condor is The Peregrine Fund, which is currently hosting a fundraiser to continue its efforts in championing these majestic birds. For 27 years, The Peregrine Fund has joined with federal, state and private partners to host a public condor release event at Vermilion Cliffs, during which condors raised in captivity are released to join the growing wild flock. This year’s event takes place on September 24th with options for supporters to view the release both physically and virtually.

We spoke with Tim Hauck, the Condor Program Director for The Peregrine Fund, about the fund’s mission, its custom t-shirt design, and how their Custom Ink fundraising campaign is supporting the condor release event.

Tim Hauk holding a condor

Tim Hauk with a condor. Image courtesy of The Peregrine Fund

CI: Where are you located?

TH: Boise, ID is our global headquarters and Marble Canyon, AZ is our field site office for the condor reintroduction program.

CI: Tell us your story. Where and how did your event or project start? 

TH: The Peregrine Fund was founded in 1970 to save the Peregrine falcon from extinction. After a thirty year effort, the Peregrine falcon was successfully delisted from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1999, and we were able to increase our capacity to support another critically endangered species that needed our help, the California condor.

Two condors flying across a rugged landscape

Condors released into the wild. Image courtesy of The Peregrine Fund

In 1982, the California condor was at an all time low of just 22 individuals remaining in the world. That is how close the species came to extinction. In 1987, the last free-flying condor was captured, and the process of bringing the condor back from the brink of extinction was in full swing. Captive breeding played an integral role in the early days, and eventually it led to releasing captive raised condors back into the wild.

In December 1996, the first condors were released at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Since then we have invited the public to join us each September to release condors raised in captivity to the wild in an effort to increase the number of birds in the wild. This year marks the 27th annual condor release at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. It is so important to share the work we do with those who care. In the past we have had as many as 800 condor aficionados join us in person to celebrate the release of the most endangered bird species in North America.

CI: Why did you decide to organize it? How has it changed? How has it changed you?

TH: The energy is electric and each person leaves the event with a deeper understanding and connection to these special birds. Although COVID-19 put a stop to in-person public release for a short time, it did provide a silver lining. In 2020 we introduced the public to our first ever Virtual Condor Release broadcast on The Peregrine Fund’s YouTube channel. It was a smashing success with more than 12,000 views! We have continued to provide the virtual release component and reintroduced the in-person public release as well for those who can make the journey, all with the goal of sharing the story of condor recovery with those that will listen. Because sharing stories and experiences will always forge a deeper connection and hopefully, someday save a species.


CI: What inspired you?

TH: One thing that the campaign has revealed is just how much people care. People are choosing to save condors, and they are showing that by pledging their hard earned dollars and words of encouragement. That support inspires all of us to keep pushing and to not stop until we reach our goal of a self-sustaining condor population.

CI: What does your fundraiser benefit?

TH: All proceeds from the fundraiser will go directly towards The Peregrine Fund’s Condor Recovery Program in Arizona and Utah. It allows us to continue our work reintroducing California condors into the wild, and provide monitoring of our flock of 110 condors year-round.

CI: In what ways did your custom items help when organizing your group or cause? Did your custom item draw others to your cause?

TH: Our custom items have created an identity for the program in a new and exciting way. We are reaching our existing condor enthusiasts and a new group of people who didn’t even know about The Peregrine Fund or our recovery effort to reintroduce California condors.

CI: Where did you get the design?

TH: The design was created through our first ever Condor Release T-shirt Design Competition. We had so many great entries, but in the end our team unanimously decided that this design, created by Tatum Talbot, was the winner. Tatum was inspired by a trip to Marble Canyon where she was able to see the condors first hand and observe their behavior in this awesome desert landscape.

CI: What made you order from Custom Ink? How was your order experience?

TH: Custom Ink’s fundraising campaign makes it easy to reach the public and share the story of the condor and the work we are doing to recover the species. It is also a great way to get t-shirts that commemorate this occasion into the hands of our supporters with ease. Not to mention, it allows the public to donate directly to the condor program. Custom Ink makes it easy!

CI: Have you ordered from us before?

TH: This is our third consecutive year using the Custom Ink Fundraiser for the Condor ReleaseEvent, but The Peregrine Fund has used Custom Ink for other fundraisers to conserve birds of prey.

CI: What did everyone think about the custom gear and fundraiser?

TH: We have had nothing but positive feedback from the public about the Custom Ink campaign.

You can participate in the California condor release event by tuning in on September 24th at 1 PM MDT via The Peregrine Fund’s Youtube channel, and visit The Peregrine Fund’s website to learn more about the California Condor project and release event.

The Peregrine Fund can be found on Twitter @peregrinefund, Instagram @peregrinefund and @condor_cliffs and on Facebook

Tess Lynch is a copywriter at Custom Ink.

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