The Grand Canyon National Park is home to five birds currently categorized as “Federally Threatened” according to the guidelines established by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Before a plant or animal can be declared endangered – meaning on the verge of complete extinction from an indigenous region – it must first be declared threatened
1) CALIFORNIA CONDOR-Being declared threatened can be good news, if it is like the case of the California Condor, which has resulted in increased populations. Everyday going forward a success story is being written with the rating of the condor moving from endangered to threatened. Being as inherently linked to the Grand Canyon as the condor is, the entire community celebrated the revitalization.
For those wishing to know more about the condor, each summer evening in Grand Canyon Village, at the Village Amphitheater – just west of the El Tovar Hotel- visitors can learn of their near extinction experience, and how scientists committed to saving them, brought them back from the brink.
UPDATE: Because of Covid 19, this Condor Program at the Village Ampitheater has not been scheduled for 2020. Please visit the Learn About Condors Page from the NPS about future schedules.
The Grand Canyon National Park Service Condor Updates page provides a great deal of information about the Condor Program, is updated regularly, and has links to more information.
2) MEXICAN SPOTTED OWL – A recent addition to the threatened listings, because of this birds nocturnal hunting habits and unusual approach to nesting – this owl looks for hollowed out trees, caves, secluded cliffs or other preexisting shelters – it is a difficult bird to see even when in prior numbers. The Spotted Owls are surviving better in canyons – Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in addition to the Grand Canyon-than in the old growth forests of the four corners region. They stand up to 19 inches tall, with a four-foot wingspan, but are identified by their unique four tone hooting call, and less by sight. Their dark colors make them more easily heard than seen, and the best times and places to spot them are down a couple miles on the Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, or Grandview Trail, either right after dark, or right before sunrise.
3) SOUTHWEST WILLOW FLYCATCHER – As the name suggests, this is a bird found exclusively in the Southwestern Region of the US and northern Mexico. It is also a riparian, meaning it needs a system or body of water nearby to survive. Water diverting agricultural programs have led to the destruction of natural riparian vegetation areas in the southwest, as has over grazing livestock. Neither is a problem with the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon. Among the network of riparian zones along the banks of the Colorado River, which flows through 277 miles through the Canyon, rests 16 high priority nesting sites for the SWWFC; several are just short strolls from Phantom Ranch – the only overnight lodging on the Canyon’s floor.
4) WESTERN YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO– Western yellow-billed cuckoo numbers have plummeted over the past several decades, with a corresponding contraction of their breeding range. Eastern yellow-billed cuckoo numbers have also declined, but not nearly as drastically. Western yellow-billed cuckoos are now gone from British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, and most of the remaining birds are found in isolated patches of riparian habitat along rivers in Arizona, California, and New Mexico.
5) YUMA CLAPPER RAIL – This bird is very similar in circumstance to the Southwest Willow Flycatcher and the Western Yellow Billed Cuckoo; they are riparian breeds needing living water systems to survive, and all 3 can be found on the banks of the Colorado River, accessible from Phantom Ranch.
The Grand Canyon is a habitat for many common species of birds, and it is a key player in the effort to restore species that have been almost lost to extinction. The biologists who work for the National Park Service study some of the rarest birds in the world who have made the Grand Canyon their home.
View the Grand Canyon Bird Species of Concern Page for more information.