Condor: To the Brink and Back—The Life and Times of One Giant Bird

John Nielsen, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (257p) ISBN 978-0-06-008862-0

NPR's environment correspondent, Nielsen, writes, "The condor is a rat with ten-foot wings," adding a half-page later that no matter how you try to get rid of it, "one day it will stand, spread its giant wings, lean into the wind, and own you." The awesome, ancient creature has been teased back from the brink of extinction since the 1970s, as Nielsen describes, by a controversial captive breeding program that has nurtured the population from around 20 to over 200. Via an unfortunately stuttering time line, Nielsen focuses on the process and players in the $20-million California Condor Recovery program, describing the infighting in the scientific and environmental communities, at war about whether a "hands on" or a "hands off" approach will work best. Provocative questions environmentalists raise include whether the very nature of the bird is sacrificed by captivity. Nielsen gives these concerns some time, but is most entranced by the hazards and pleasures of working with these birds; he's at his best describing scientists in the field and the birds themselves. One is left with the fledgling hope that the process of trial and error will indeed work out for the condors. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW . Agent, James Al Levine. (Feb. 10)

Reviewed on: 11/07/2005
Release date: 02/01/2006
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Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-136646-8
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Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-174064-0
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