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Andean Condor

Classification
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Cathartidae
  • Genus: Vulture
  • Species: Gryphus
Fun Fact

The Andean condor does not fight with other animals because it is dangerous and can lead to injury. Instead, they have evolved ritual displays that show their dominance and allow them to resolve conflicts without aggression.

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About Andean Condors

With an adult wingspan of 10–12 feet, they are the largest flying bird in the world. They weigh 20–30 pounds and measure 4 feet tall. Their feathers are a glossy black or ashy white with black tips. The skin on their head is red to black. Their heads are nearly featherless because when feeding on a carcass they stick their head inside the animal to retrieve the meat and having no feathers on their head makes it easy to keep their heads clean. They have a large fleshy wattle over their beak called a caruncle, which is believed to make the males seem more intimidating. The skin on their head and throat form loose folds. They have a snowy white ruff around the shoulders which is for warmth. They have special muscles in their skin which allows them to pull this ruff up over the back of their head.

Due to their relatively large size they soar on warm air currents. Soaring is the act of controlled falling through the air currents. The thermals, a column of warm upward moving air, will push the bird up faster than it falls. The birds move in circles in order to stay within the dimensions of the thermal column. So a circling vulture is not necessarily watching for food. This type of “flying” is very effortless and energy efficient. They are able to change directions with slight movements of their primary “thumb” feathers and their tails. They usually will stay grounded on cloudy days when there are no thermals.

Andean Condors in the Wild

Habitat

Open areas or rocky cliffs of mountains.

Location

Andean mountain region of South America.

Diet

They feed mostly on carrion (dead carcasses) or newborn animals and bird eggs. They have been seen eating dead deer, rabbits and squirrels as well as mice, fish, lizards and insects. They use their eyesight and associative learning, such as watching other animals’ behavior, to find their food. They can fly over 200 miles a day while searching for food.

Population Status

IUCN lists the Andean condor as “near threatened.” The reason the Andean condor is listed as "near threatened" is because of its low reproductive rate, the poisoning of carcasses by farmers, and the recent introduction of black vultures have led to competition for food.

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