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Saving the California Condor

The California condor is an impressive and ugly bird — with a bald, leathery head, red eyes and a big, razor-sharp beak. It's the largest living thing flying over North America — with a nearly 10-foot wingspan.

The condor nearly went extinct. Its numbers dwindled to just 22 birds in the wild by the 1980s. So all the wild birds were trapped and sent to zoos for breeding programs.

As a result, more than 140 condors have been released to the wild, wearing numbered ID tags and radio transmitters so researchers can track their movements.

Melissa Block talks to NPR science correspondent John Nielsen about his new book, Condor: To the Brink and Back — The Life and Times of One Giant Bird.

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