|Soaring over Cruz del Cóndor in Colca Canyon, Peru.|
|Yellow – approximate range/distribution|
The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is a giant South American
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. The female condor is smaller than the male, an exception to the rule among birds of prey.
The condor is primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion. It prefers large carcasses, such as those of deer or cattle. It reaches sexual maturity at five or six years of age and nests at elevations of up to 5,000 m (16,000 ft), generally on inaccessible rock ledges. One or two eggs are usually laid. It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of over 70 years in some cases.
The Andean condor is a national symbol of
Taxonomy and systematics
The Andean condor was described by
The Andean condor is the only accepted living species of its genus, Vultur. Unlike the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), which is known from extensive fossil remains and some additional ones of congeners, the fossil record of the Andean condor recovered to date is scant. Presumed Plio-Pleistocene species of South American condors were later recognized to be not different from the present species, although one known only from a few rather small bones found in a Pliocene deposit of Tarija Department, Bolivia, may have been a smaller palaeo subspecies, V. gryphus patruus.
The overall length of the Andean condor can range from 100–130 cm (3 ft 3 in – 4 ft 3 in). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 75.7–85.2 cm (29.8–33.5 in), the tail is 33–38 cm (13–15 in) and the tarsus is 11.5–12.5 cm (4.5–4.9 in). Measurements are usually taken from specimens reared in captivity. The mean weight is 11.3 kg (25 lb), with the males averaging about a kilogram more at 12.5 kg (28 lb), the females a kilogram less at 10.1 kg (22 lb). Condors possess the heaviest average weight for any living flying bird or animal, ahead of trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) and Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus). However, other sources claim a mean species body mass of 10.3 kg (23 lb) for the Andean condor. The Andean condor is the largest living land bird capable of flight if measured in terms of average weight and wingspan, although male bustards of the largest species (far more sexually dimorphic in size) can weigh more. The mean wingspan is around 283 cm (9 ft 3 in) and the wings have the largest surface area of any extant bird. It has a maximum wingspan of 3.3 m (10 ft 10 in). Among living bird species, only the great albatrosses and the two largest species of pelican exceed the Andean condor in average and maximal wingspan.
The middle toe is greatly elongated, and the hind one is only slightly developed, while the talons of all the toes are comparatively straight and blunt. The feet are thus more adapted to walking, and are of little use as weapons or organs of
Observation of wing color patterns, and the size and shape of the male’s crest, are the best ways of identifying individual Andean condors. Sighting-resighting methods assess the size and structure of populations.
Distribution and habitat
The Andean condor is found in South America in the Andes and the Santa Marta Mountains. In the north, its range begins in Venezuela and Colombia, where it is extremely rare, then continues south along the Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile, through Bolivia and western Argentina to the Tierra del Fuego. In the early 19th century, the Andean condor bred from western Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego, along the entire chain of the Andes, but its range has been greatly reduced due to human activity. 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 páramo or rocky, mountainous areas in general. It occasionally ranges to lowlands in eastern Bolivia, northern Peru, and southwestern Brazil, descends to lowland desert areas in Chile and Peru, and is found over southern-beech forests in Patagonia. In southern Patagonia, meadows are important for Andean condors as this habitat is likely to have herbivores present. In this region, Andean condor distributions are therefore influenced by the locations of meadows as well as cliffs for nesting and roosting.
Ecology and behavior
The condor soars with its wings held horizontally and its
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. Generally, mature males tend to be at the top of the pecking order, with post-dispersal immature males tending to be near the bottom.
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 50 years or more, 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 16,400 ft).
The Andean condor is a
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.
Being a slowly-maturing bird with no known natural predators in adulthood, an Andean condor is a long-lived bird. Longevity and mortality rates are not known to have been extensively studied in the wild. Some estimations of lifespans of wild birds has exceeded 50 years. In 1983, the
Relationship with humans
The Andean condor is considered
In response to the capture of all the wild individuals of the California condor, in 1988 the
In June 2014, local authorities of the Ancasmarca region rescued two Andean condors that were caged and displayed in a local market as an attraction for tourists.
Role in culture
The Andean condor is a national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and
The Andean condor is a popular figure on stamps in many countries, appearing on one for Ecuador in 1958, Argentina in 1960, Peru in 1973, Bolivia in 1985, Colombia in 1992, Chile in 1935 and 2001, and Venezuela in 2004. It has also appeared on the coins and banknotes of Colombia and Chile.
Coat of arms of Pichincha Province, Ecuador.
Coat of arms of Chimborazo Province, Ecuador.
Coat of arms of State of Mérida, Venezuela.
Imperial standard of theEthnocacerist Movement, Peru.
National Autonomous University of Mexico, depicting a condor and golden eagle.
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- Vulture Territory Facts and Characteristics: Andean condor
- ARKive – images and movies of the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus)
- Video of Peruvian condors
- BirdLife Species Factsheet
- Andean condor
- Andean condor videos on the Internet Bird Collection
- Scientists Work to Repopulate Colombia's Skies with Condors – slideshow by the Los Angeles Times
- Proyecto Conservación Cóndor Andino de Argentina, Organizado por la Fundación Bioandina Argentina.
- Ecology of condors
- IUCN Red List vulnerable species
- Birds of the Andes
- New World vultures
- Páramo fauna
- National symbols of Argentina
- National symbols of Bolivia
- National symbols of Colombia
- National symbols of Chile
- National symbols of Ecuador
- National symbols of Peru
- Vulnerable animals
- Vulnerable biota of South America
- Extant Piacenzian first appearances
- Pliocene birds of South America
- Birds described in 1758
- Taxa named by Carl Linnaeus