Late Pleistoscene Condor

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Common Name: Late Pleistocene Condor
Scientific Name: Gymnogyps californianus amplus

Size: 43-56 inches (109–140 cm); Wingspan 102-118 inches (249-300 cm)

Habitat: North America. Range is believed to have extended from California to Florida .

Status: Extinct. Global Population: None. This subspecies of Condor existed in the late Pleistocene . As the climate changed during the last ice age, the entire population became smaller until it had evolved into the California Condor we’re familiar with (Gymnogyps californianus californianus).

Diet: It is thought that this condor lived off of the carcasses of the "megafauna", which are now extinct in North America.

Nesting: To attract a prospective mate, the male condor performs a display. In the display, the male turns his head red and puffs out his neck feathers. He then spreads his wings and slowly approaches the female. If the female lowers her head to accept the male, the condors become mates for life. The pair makes a simple nest in caves or on cliff clefts, especially ones with nearby roosting trees and open spaces for landing. A mated female lays one bluish-white egg every other February or March. The egg weighs about 280 grams (10 oz) and measures from 90–120 millimeters (3½–4¾ in) in length and about 67 millimeters (2⅝ in) in width. If the chick or egg is lost or removed, the parents "double clutch", or lay another egg to take the lost one's place. Researchers and breeders take advantage of this behavior to double the reproductive rate by taking the first egg away for hand-rearing; this induces the parents to lay a second egg, which the condors are sometimes allowed to raise.

The eggs hatch after 53 to 60 days of incubation by both parents. Chicks are born with their eyes open and sometimes can take up to a week to hatch from their egg. The young are covered with a grayish down until they are almost as large as their parents. They are able to fly after five to six months, but continue to roost and hunt with their parents until they turn two, at which point they are displaced by a new clutch.

Cool Facts: Gymnogyps californianus amplus was much larger than the California Condor, having about the same weight as the Andean Condor and had a wider bill. It is believed to have evolved into the California Condor we know today.

The Wiyot tribe of California say that the condor recreated mankind after Above Old Man wiped humanity out with a flood. However, other tribes, like California's Mono, viewed the condor as a destroyer, not a creator. They say that Condor seized humans, cut off their heads, and drained their blood so that it would flood Ground Squirrel's home. Condor then seized Ground Squirrel after he fled, but Ground Squirrel managed to cut off Condor's head when Condor paused to take a drink of the blood. According to the Yokut tribe, the condor sometimes ate the moon, causing the lunar cycle, and his wings caused eclipses. The Chumash tribe of Southern California believed that the condor was once a white bird, but it turned black when it flew too close to a fire.

Myths, Stories & Legend: The Thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples' history and culture. It's considered a "supernatural" bird of power and strength. It is especially important, and richly depicted, in the art, songs and oral histories of many Pacific Northwest Coast cultures, and is found in various forms among the peoples of the American Southwest and Great Plains. Thunderbirds were major components of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of American prehistory.

The Thunderbird's name comes from the common belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind. Clouds are pulled together by its wingbeats, the sound of thunder made by its wings clapping, sheet lightning the light flashing from its eyes when it blinks, and individual lightning bolts made by the glowing snakes that it carries around with it. In masks, it is depicted as many-colored, with two curling horns, and, often, teeth within its beak. The Native Americans believed that the giant Thunderbird could shoot lightning from its eyes. The Lakota name for the Thunderbird is Wakį́yą, from wakhą, meaning "sacred", and kįyą, meaning "winged". The Kwakwaka'wakw have many names for the Thunderbird and the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) called him Kw-Uhnx-Wa. The Ojibwa word for a thunderbird that is closely associated with thunder is animikii, while large thunderous birds are known as binesi.

Most thunderbird reports that are taken seriously by scientists working in the field of cryptozoology describe a bird that generally resembles a really huge condor. Other experts have suggested that the Thunderbird’s roots in the Pacific Northwest lead to the bald eagle and on the Great Plains, the Raven or Turkey Vulture. The Raven is known in most Native American tribal lore as the “Trickster”.

Many Plains Indian tribes claim there are in fact four colors (varieties) of Thunderbirds (the blue ones are said, strangely, to have no ears or eyes), sometimes associated with the four cardinal directions, but also sometimes only with the west and the western wind. (According to the medicine man Lame Deer, there were four, one at each compass point, but the western one was the Greatest and most senior.) (Fire and Erdoes 1972) The fact that they are sometimes known as "grandfathers" suggest they are held in considerable reverence and awe. It is supposed to be very dangerous to approach a Thunderbird nest, and many are supposed to have died in the attempt, swept away by ferocious storms. The symbol of Thunderbird is the red zig-zag, lightning-bolt design, which some people mistakenly think represents a stairway. Most tribes feel he and the other Thunder beings were the first to appear in the Creation, and that they have an especially close connection to wakan tanka, the Great Mysterious.

Depending on the people telling the story, the Thunderbird is either a singular entity or a species. In both cases, it is intelligent, powerful, and wrathful. All agree one should go out of one's way to keep from getting thunderbirds angry.

The singular Thunderbird (as the Nuu-chah-nulth thought of him) was said to reside on the top of a mountain, and was the servant of the Great Spirit. The Thunderbird only flew about to carry messages from one spirit to another. It was also told that the thunderbird controlled rainfall.

The plural thunderbirds (as the Kwakwaka'wakw and Cowichan tribes believed) could shapeshift into human form by tilting back their beaks like a mask, and by removing their feathers as if it were a feather-covered blanket. There are stories of thunderbirds in human form marrying into human families; some families may trace their lineage to such an event. Families of thunderbirds who kept to themselves but wore human form were said to have lived along the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The story goes that other tribes soon forgot the nature of one of these thunderbird families, and when one tribe tried to take them as slaves the thunderbirds put on their feather blankets and transformed to take vengeance upon their foolish captors.

The Sioux believed that in "old times" the Thunderbirds destroyed dangerous reptilian monsters called the Unktehila.

The Anishinaabe, who speak Ojibwa, one of the Three Fires Society, have many stories about thunderbirds. During the sundance ceremony a thunderbird nest is put near the top of the tree of life. The dancers often face the nest while dancing, and their hands and arms reach up towards the nest at times. A thunderbird pipe is used during the ceremony as well, and thunderbird medicine is prepared as well. The area of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is related in some ways to the Anishinaabe stories of thunderbirds.

A famous story of the Thunderbird is "Thunderbird and Whale". The Thunderbird mythology parallels tales of the Roc from around the Indian Ocean; as the roc, it is generally assumed to be based on real (though mythically exaggerated) species of birds, specifically the Bald Eagle, which is very common on the Northwest Coast.


Found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Legend

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