Wildlife conservation is often improved by understanding the movement ecology of species and adapting management strategies to dynamic conditions associated with movement. Despite a remarkable recovery over the past 30 years, the establishment of self-sustaining populations of California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus) has been challenging in the human-dominated landscapes of southern California. Among these challenges are those imposed by condor ground-foraging behavior that exposes them to environmental contamination. These include lead poisoning from the ingestion of spent ammunition and micro-trash ingestion and, during takeoff and landing, collisions with human structures. We tracked 28 California Condors for 24 months with patagially mounted GPS telemetry units to investigate the characteristics of ground sites condors visited and to identify spatiotemporal trends that might aid in conservation of this critically endangered species. Ground sites occurred on a wide variety of land cover types, primarily on steep slopes, and those more frequently used were associated with open cover. Condors concentrated their visits to ground sites around a 3 h period near midday, and usage increased from winter to late summer. Our study is the first to use remotely sensed telemetry data to describe fine-scale ecological correlates of condor ground-foraging ecology and therefore has important relevance for ongoing conservation and management strategies for this species. The descriptions of ground sites we provide can be used to target conservation or management actions.
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