As It Happens

California condors are very rare, but 10% of them are trashing this woman's house

There are only about 200 California condors in the wild — and one tenth of them are having a non-stop party at Cinda Mickols' house. 

Only about 200 of the birds live in the wild — and 20 of them are outside Cinda Mickols' home

A pair of California condors are pictured hanging out on Cinda Mickols's trashed deck. A flock of the rare, endangered birds have taken over her property in Tehachapi, Calif. (Cinda Mickols/The Associated Press)

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There are only about 200 California condors in the wild — and one tenth of them are having a non-stop party at Cinda Mickols's house. 

"We don't know where these all came from, but somewhere around 20 of them just decided to show up and really seemed to take a shining to my mom's house — particularly her deck and roof," Mickols's daughter, Seana Quintero of San Francisco, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"They're mostly just hanging out and having fun."

The massive endangered birds have set up shop outside the Tehachapi, Calif., home, where they have spent the last week or so knocking over plants and lawn ornaments, leaving claw marks on the deck and defecating all over the roof.

The animals are tagged for observation, so Quintero and her mom have been able to look them up online and learn more about them. Most, she says, are between two and four years old — not quite adults in condor years.

She called them "a big pack of rowdy teenagers."

Five condors sit on the railing of the deck, all visibly tagged as part of a conservation breeding program that has boosted their population from 20 to 200 since the 1980s. (Cinda Mickols/The Associated Press)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs a program to save the species from extinction, told Quintero on Twitter that her mom's house is in a historic condor habitat.

Other bird experts the family has spoken to have told them the same thing. From the Mickols' house, the birds have access to everything they need, including food and the strong winds they rely on to glide through the air on their massive wings. 

"This pack of teenage condors kind of figured out that my mom's house is situated at a sweet spot," Quintero said.

Two condors perch on the railing. (Cinda Mickols/The Associated Press)

Quintero says her mom is an animal lover who usually enjoys watching the condors fly overhead, and she would never do anything to harm them.

The Fish and Wildlife Service suggested the family try some annoying, but ultimately harmless, tactics to drive the birds away, like spraying them with water.

So far, it hasn't worked. "About once a day, she has to hose the condors off a roof — but they come back the next day," Quintero said. 

She's also spraying the roof in an ill-fated effort to clear away the birds' droppings, which have blanketed her home in a powerful stench. 

"It's basically like cement," Quintero said. "I have to get someone in to come power wash and scrub it off. But she's kind of waiting to see if they leave, because ... she doesn't want to have it cleaned just to have them make the same mess the next week. So we're kind of in a watching-and-waiting pattern right now."

Condor droppings are left scattered over the porch. (Cinda Mickols/The Associated Press)

California condors are among the largest flying birds in the world, weighing between seven to 11 kilograms, with a wingspan of up to three metres, according to the San Diego Zoo. They can reach 134 centimetres — or 4.3 feet — in height. 

"Which is really funny thinking of my mom, who's about five feet, going out there shaking her cane at them, yelling at them to leave," Quintero said.

The species was once on the brink of extinction because of habitat loss, poaching, and lead poisoning, according to the San Diego Zoo. By the late 1980s, there were only about 20 of them left. 

But thanks to an intense conservation breeding program, there are now an estimated 200 California condors in the wild.

"It's kind of wild to think that the programs have worked so well that now there's enough that what used to be the only amount in the wild is currently hanging out at my mom's house having a party," Quintero said. "So it's a little annoying, but it's very cool to see."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. 

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