• High Peaks and Big Berry Manzanita. NPS Photo|Sierra Willoughby

    Pinnacles

    National Park California

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  • No Fires - Fire Danger EXTREME - No Fuego

    No Fires in the campground, no smoking on the trails. Observe these rules to protect park resources. No se permite fumar en los senderos, tampoco se permite las fogatas en el campamento. Proteja los recursos del parque y respete las advertencias. More »

  • Fee Increase at Pinnacles National Park

    On August 1, 2014 the 7 day entrance pass for Pinnacles National Park will increase to $10 for passenger vehicles and motorcycles; bicycle and pedestrian entry will increase to $5.00. The Pinnacles Annual Pass will increase on August 1 to $20.00. More »

Condor Viewing Tips

Where is the best place to see a California Condor at Pinnacles?

There are currently 27 free-flying adult and juvenile condors managed by Pinnacles National Park. They have commingled with the 32 condors in the Big Sur flock and have effectively become one central California flock. Condors do not migrate and are observed in this area year round. They move frequently within their expanding territory, so they may not always be seen inside the park.

Pinnacles' condors have now ranged as far as Livermore to the north, Santa Barbara County to the south, and west to the Big Sur coast.

If you are going to visit Pinnacles and you hope to see a condor, one of the most likely viewing areas is the High Peaks in the early morning or early evening. The High Peaks can be reached from either entrance to the park, but keep in mind that hiking to the High Peaks is strenuous. Please carry and drink plenty of water, wear layered clothing, and be prepared for temperature extremes.

Another location that the condors spend time around is the ridge just southeast of the campground. Condors are often observed soaring on the morning thermals along the ridge and coming in to roost on their favorite trees in the evenings. Two spotting scopes have been placed in the Campground (on the Bench Trail near Pinnacles Visitor Center) that may help you get a closer look at these magnificent birds.

Remember that our condors are free-flying, which means there is no guarantee you will see one on a given day at a given time.

Please remember to stay out of areas that are marked as closed to the public to protect the condors other wildlife.

How can I tell the difference between a condor and a turkey vulture?
California condors and turkey vultures have a few key differences besides their size. If you see a bird in flight, look for the lighter area on the underside of the wings to help determine the species.

 
condor silhouette
Juvenile condors have patches of mottled white along the leading edges of their wings.
 
turkey vulture silhouette
Turkey vultures have a silvery area along the back edges of their wings.
 
A juvenile California condor perching in a tree

The heads of juvenile condors are gray until they reach the age of 5 or 6, when their heads turn a pinkish orange. Adults have bright orange heads, and often have a pink crop bulging out of their chest if they have recently fed.

 
An adult turkey vulture perches on a tree branch.
Juvenile turkey vultures also have gray heads, but adult turkey vultures are more common at Pinnacles, and have bright red heads.
 
California Condor in flight
Because the underwing markings can be difficult to see when a bird is flying above you, the way that a condor holds its wings is often one of the best ways to identify it. In flight, condors tend to hold their wings flat and soar without any rocking back and forth. They do flap their wings, but not as often as other birds such as turkey vultures.
 
A turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vultures hold their wings in a slight "V" pattern, and will rock side to side in the wind. Turkey vulture flight is often described as wobbly or unstable when compared to that of a condor.

If you're looking at a bird that is perching, look for a numbered wing tag. All California condors have at least one tag along the leading edge of their wing, and many have two. Visit Condor Spotter to help identify which bird you saw and visit our Condor Profile page for more info on each bird.

 

Did You Know?

Starry skies. Photo courtesy of NASA.

The night sky is vital to many plants and animals that call Pinnacles home and it holds many meanings for many cultures. An unpolluted night sky is especially valuable to humans wishing to experience natural darkness, shooting stars, or the Milky Way.