squatters’ rights

These Giant Birds Have an Inspiring Commitment to Mayhem

Photo: Doug Steakley/Getty Images

Ignorant of human concepts such as property rights and morality, a lawless gang of endangered California condors with a particular taste for mayhem laid siege to one woman’s Southern California home while she was away over the weekend, destroying and defiling everything in sight.

When the woman, Cinda Mickols, returned to her home in the Tehachapi Mountains, she was met with a startling sight: 15 to 20 condors — which are, with an average weight of 25 pounds and a wingspan of nine and a half feet, the largest flying bird in North America — perched about her deck, which was in ruins. The birds had overturned potted plants and knocked over outdoor furniture. Using their sharp beaks, typically used to tear flesh from animal carcasses, they’d ripped at screen doors and a spa cover. But “the worst” of their destruction, Mickols, 69, told the New York Times, was the copious poop.

“There is more condor poop than she can handle,’’ added Mickols’s daughter, whose viral tweet recounting the havoc spawned media coverage. “Like concrete, and won’t come off.”

Okay, wow. Questions abound. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tehachapi Mountains are a historical condor habitat, where the birds “sometimes perceive houses and decks as suitable perch locations.” While that additional context helps explain why Mickols might sporadically see a condor lurking on her deck, it doesn’t explain what might’ve compelled approximately 10 percent of the state’s condor population to descend upon her deck in concert. Maybe the explanation is banal; Mickols mistakenly forgot to bring in some hot-dog buns, or something. But what would drive these birds to wreak such havoc and for some of them to, as of today, remain lurking in her trees? Are their motivations sinister? Or are they simply trying to reclaim their rightful territory that humans have forcibly chosen to occupy?

Anyhow, while Mickols would eventually like these avian squatters to leave her be, she doesn’t appear to be too vexed by the whole thing: “When I arrived home Monday, I was both amazed and angry at the condors,” she told the Times. “To have that many condors on my house was surreal; they can be destructive and messy. Nature is amazing!” Amazing, indeed!

These Giant Birds Have an Inspiring Commitment to Mayhem