Monday, January 17News That Matters

Pesky Condors Invade California Home

After spending the weekend away, Cinda Mickols returned to her California house on Monday and found some unexpected visitors.

At least 13 condors had made themselves at home on the deck of her house outside the city of Tehachapi in Southern California — and there were several more on the roof.

“When I arrived home Monday, I was both amazed and angry at the condors,” Ms. Mickols said on Wednesday. “To have that many condors on my house was surreal; they can be destructive and messy. Nature is amazing!”

Her daughter, Seana Quintero, also thought it was odd to have so many condors, which are endangered and number about 160 in the state, gathered in one spot. So she tweeted about the condor mob with photos of the destructive visit. The birds wrecked the deck, ripped up a spa cover and knocked over plants this week.

“My poor mom JUST redid her deck with new wood,” Ms. Quintero said in an interview on Wednesday. Her tweet has drawn more than 21,000 likes, with users poking fun at the predicament.

One user wrote: “your mom has been adopted by a critically endangered species. I’d call that an honor.”

Ms. Mickols, 69, said the birds had also damaged screen doors and knocked over a half-barrel deck plant.

“The worst,” she said, “was the excrement.”

“There is more condor poop than she can handle,’’ Ms. Quintero said, adding that it’s “like concrete and won’t come off.”

Ms. Mickols is used to living among the wild in a semirural area in the Tehachapi Mountains. Elk and deer regularly approach her property.

“She’s used to see a few condors around,” Ms. Quintero said, “but this is a whole other level.”

Over all, she said, her mother was taking the condor flock in “good stride and appreciating this once-in-a-lifetime annoyance but hoping they decide to leave her house alone soon.”

To do that, Ms. Quintero said, her mother contacted some condor groups so that they could observe the birds “and maybe help keep them off her house.”

It’s hard to miss a California condor, which, with a wingspan of about nine and a half feet and weighing about 25 pounds, is the largest flying bird in North America.

Condors have been in danger since the 1950s as development began to invade their natural habitats. Their eggshells also became so abnormally thin from exposure to the long-banned pesticide DDT that they could not support life.

Their populations dropped dramatically, and by 1967, the California condor was listed by the federal government as endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In the early 1980s, when there were just over 20 of the birds left in California, the wildlife service began a captive breeding program to save the species.

Since 1992, when the wildlife service began reintroducing captive-bred condors to the wild through public and private partners, the condor population in the country has grown to more than 400 birds.

Credit…Cinda Mickols

As they were reintroduced to the wild, the birds, scavengers by nature, also became habituated to humans by lurking around campsites and making themselves at home on people’s properties.

In responding to Ms. Quintero’s tweets, the Fish and Wildlife Service said that her mother’s house is in a historical condor habitat “where natural food sources occur” and that “unfortunately they sometimes perceive houses and decks as suitable perch locations.”

To encourage the birds to leave without causing them harm, the Fish and Wildlife Service suggests using water hoses, yelling, clapping or shouting.

As of Wednesday morning, Ms. Mickols said, the condors that been on her house had moved on to a tree on her property, though she said she hadn’t seen them since then.

Her daughter joked that “they’re just waiting until she leaves again to throw another party.”