[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Cathartidae | [latin] Vultur gryphus | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Andean Condor | [FR] Condor des Andes | [DE] Andenkondor | [ES] Condor Andino | [NL] Andescondor
Members of the Vultur genus are but one, the Andean Condor. The species with the largest wingspan of any landbird. It has weak talons but an extraordinary strong beak with which it can open any skin of prey. The female is larger than the male.
It is a large black vulture with a ruff of white feathers surrounding the base of the neck and, especially in the male, large white patches on the wings. The head and neck are nearly featherless, and are a dull red color, which may flush and therefore change color in response to the bird’s emotional state. In the male, there is a wattle on the neck and a large, dark red comb or caruncle on the crown of the head. Unlike most birds of prey, the male is larger than the female.
Listen to the sound of Andean Condor
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
recorded by Guillermo Egli
South America : Venezuela to South Chile and Argentina. Vultur gryphus occurs throughout the Andes, in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay south to Argentina and Chile
Its habitat is mainly composed of open grasslands and alpine areas up to 5,000 m (16,000 ft) in elevation. It prefers relatively open, non-forested areas which allow it to spot carrion from the air, such as the paramo or rocky, mountainous areas in general. It occasionally ranges to lowlands in eastern Bolivia and southwestern Brazil, descends to lowland desert areas in Chile and Peru, and is found over southern-beech forests in Patagonia.
Sexual maturity and breeding behavior do not appear in the Andean Condor until the bird is five or six years of age. It may live to be 50 plus, and it mates for life. During courtship displays, the skin of the male’s neck flushes, changing from dull red to bright yellow, and inflates. He approaches the female with neck outstretched, revealing the inflated neck and the chest patch, while hissing, then extends his wings and stands erect while clicking his tongue. Other courtship rituals include hissing and clucking while hopping with wings partially spread, and dancing. The Andean condor prefers to roost and breed at elevations of 3,000 to 5,000 m (9,800 to 16,000 ft). Its nest, which consists of a few sticks placed around the eggs, is created on inaccessible ledges of rock. However, in coastal areas of Peru, where there are few cliffs, some nests are simply partially shaded crannies scraped out against boulders on slopes. It deposits one or two bluish-white eggs, weighing about 280 g (9.9 oz) and ranging from 75 to 100 mm (3.0 to 3.9 in) in length, during the months of February and March every second year. The egg hatches after 54 to 58 days of incubation by both parents. If the chick or egg is lost or removed, another egg is laid to take its place. Researchers and breeders take advantage of this behavior to double the reproductive rate by taking the first egg away for hand-rearing, causing the parents to lay a second egg, which they are generally allowed to raise. The young are covered with a grayish down until they are almost as large as their parents. They are able to fly after six months, but continue to roost and hunt with their parents until age two, when they are displaced by a new clutch. Healthy adults have no natural predators, but large birds of prey and mammalian predators, like foxes, may take eggs or hatchlings. There is a well developed social structure within large groups of condors, with competition to determine a ‘pecking order’ by body language, competitive play behavior, and vocalizations.
The Andean Condor is a scavenger, feeding mainly on carrion. Wild condors inhabit large territories, often traveling more than 200 km (120 mi) a day in search of carrion. In inland areas, they prefer large carcasses, such as those of dead farm animals or wild deer, while their diet consists mainly of beached carcasses of marine mammals when near the coast. They will also raid the nests of smaller birds to feed on the eggs. Coastal areas provide a constant food supply, and in particularly plentiful areas, some Andean Condors limit their foraging area to several kilometers of beach-front land. They locate carrion by spotting it or by following other scavengers, such as corvids or other vultures. It may follow New World Vultures of the genus Cathartes?the Turkey Vulture, the Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, and the Greater Yellow-headed Vulture?to carcasses. The Cathartes vultures forage by smell, detecting the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals. These smaller vultures cannot rip through the tougher hides of these larger animals with the efficiency of the larger condor, and their interactions are often an example of mutual dependence between species. Black Vultures, King Vultures and even mammalian scavengers may sometimes track Cathartes vultures for carcasses but the condor is invariably dominant among the scavengers in its range. Andean Condors are intermittent eaters in the wild, often going for a few days without eating, then gorging themselves on several pounds at once, sometimes to the point of being unable to lift off the ground. Because its feet and talons are not adapted to grasping, it must feed while on the ground. Like other carrion-feeders, it plays an important role in its ecosystem by disposing of carrion which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.
copyright: Peter Nash
This species has a moderately small global population which is suspected to be declining significantly owing to persecution by man. It is consequently classified as Near Threatened.
The Andean Condor is a national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It is the national bird of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador. It plays an important role in the folklore and mythology of the South American Andean regions and has been represented in Andean art from c. 2500 BCE onward.They are a part of indigenous Andean religions. In Andean mythology, the Andean Condor was associated with the sun deity and was believed to be the ruler of the upper world. The Andean Condor is considered a symbol of power and health by many Andean cultures, and it was believed that the bones and organs of the Andean Condor possessed medicinal powers, sometimes leading to the hunting and killing of condors to obtain its bones and organs. In some versions of Peruvian bullfighting, a condor is tied to the back of a bull, where it pecks at the animal as bullfighters fight it. The condor generally survives and is set free.