cover image Condor Comeback (Scientists in the Field)

Condor Comeback (Scientists in the Field)

Sy Montgomery, photos by Tianne Strombeck. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-544-81653-4

The California Condor’s stunning and fragile existence swoops into focus in the latest Scientists in the Field title. In 1982, fewer than two dozen California Condors were left in the wild, their numbers decimated by hunting, habitat loss, and poisoning from lead shot in the animal carcasses they eat. A collective effort led by conservationists and zoos is slowly rebuilding the population, but they remain critically endangered. As Montgomery relates this history, she introduces readers to scientists and volunteers, mostly women, working to protect the condor today, including experts at the Los Angeles Zoo, field ornithologists checking each wild bird, toxicologists testing for lead, and a Chumash tribal educator who discusses how “the condor is a spirit helper for the Chumash.” Alongside Strombeck’s crisp photographs, Montgomery details the realities of their work—from thrilling moments such as spotting a baby chick to long observation sessions where not much happens—and has a knack for evocative descriptions (a “bird half the size of a small sofa,” “rustling feathers—like dozens of debutantes in taffeta ballgowns”). Though the condor’s future remains tenuous, Montgomery’s compelling page-turner inspires optimism. Ages 10–12. (July)