Fossil remains of the nearly extinct California condor have been found in New York state, the first sign that the giant vulture lived in northeastern North America during the last Ice Age, museum officials said.
The condor had been thought to have been confined to the southernmost portion of the United States during the Ice Age. Other fossil remains had been uncovered in California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida.
“The discovery has radically altered concepts of the composition of fauna (animals and birds) in the Northeast at the end of the Ice Age and the adaptability of the California condor,” said a statement by the State Museum issued this week.
The remains, three fossil bones uncovered in a layer of sediment dating to 11,000 years ago, were found in Genesee County in the western part of the state. They were identified by museum paleozoologist David Steadman.
Steadman said he was shocked to realize what the remains were.
“The birds are regarded as something that lives in sunny California and here they were living in a pine and spruce forest just a couple of hundred miles south of the glacier,” Steadman said.
Museum officials said their research indicated that the more significant factor in where the condor could survive was not climate but availability of food.
The condor, with a wingspread of about 12 feet, is a scavenger that feeds on the decaying flesh of large mammals. According to museum officials, the area that is now New York had a climate like present-day eastern Canada about 11,000 years ago and was dominated by mastodons, giant sloths, mammoths, elk and caribou.