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Public can watch condor release March 6

Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service archives<br/>A rare photo of a California condor spreading its wings near Los Angeles.<br/>

Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service archives<br/>A rare photo of a California condor spreading its wings near Los Angeles.<br/>

Two California condors will be released to the wild in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 6.

The public is welcome to observe the release from a viewing area where spotting scopes will be set up and experts will be available to answer questions.

This marks the 15th annual public release of condors in Arizona since the recovery program began in 1996.

To view the condor release, drive north on Highway 89 out of Flagstaff. Turn left (west) onto Highway 89A toward Jacob Lake and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Drive about 25 miles past Marble Canyon until you turn right onto House Rock Valley Road (BLM Road 1065). Travel about three miles to a shaded viewing area on the right.

On top of the cliffs to your east will be the location where the condors are released. The release site is approximately one mile from the viewing point.

Several spotting scopes will be available to the public, although participants are encouraged to bring their own binoculars or spotting scopes for better viewing.

The condor is the largest flying land bird in North America. The birds can weigh up to 26 pounds and have a wingspan up to 9 ½ feet.

Prior to reintroduction, the last wild condor in Arizona was sighted just south of the Grand Canyon in 1924.

Condors are hatched and reared in captivity at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Idaho and transported to Arizona for release to the wild.

Currently, 74 condors are flying free in the Grand Canyon region. The world's total population of endangered California condors is 348, with 186 of the birds in the wild in Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico.

Condors were reduced to just 22 individuals in the 1980s when a program was started to save the species from extinction.

Recovery and reintroduction cooperators include The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Condors reach maturity at about six years of age. They usually produce one egg every other year.

Condors were added to the federal Endangered Species List in 1967.

For more information, go online to www.azgfd.gov/condor.