Andean Condor

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image: AndeanCondor.jpg

Common Name: Andean Condor
Scientific Name: Vultur gryphus

Size: 40-50 inches (100-130 cm); Wingspan: 120-144 inches (320-370 cm)

Habitat: South America; The Andes Mountain Range from Venezuela to Sierra del Fuego; descends to lowland desert regions in Peru and Chile/ In the early nineteenth 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 16,000 ft (5,000 m) 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 and southwestern Brazil, descends to lowland desert areas in Chile and Peru, and is found in southern-beech forests in Patagonia.

Status: Near Threatened. Global Population: 10,000 mature individuals and decreasing. Threatened by habitat loss and by secondary poisoning from carcasses killed by hunters. Captive breeding programs have been instituted in several countries.

Diet: Primarily carrion, but also eggs from seabird colonies

Nesting: In the male, the head is crowned with a dark red caruncle or comb, while the skin of his neck lies in folds, forming a wattle. The skin of the head and neck is capable of flushing noticeably in response to emotional state, which serves to communicate between individuals. The irises of the male are brown, while those of the female are deep red. Juveniles have a grayish-brown general coloration, blackish head and neck skin, and a brown ruff.

The Andean condor nests in shallow caves on cliff ledges and lays one or two bluish-white eggs, weighing about 280 g (10 oz) and ranging from 75 to 100 mm (3 to 4 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.

Cool Facts: It is the only member of the genus Vultur. Although it is on average about five cm shorter from beak to tail than the California Condor, the Andean Condor is larger in wingspan. Contrary to the usual rule among birds of prey, the female is smaller than the male.

The condor helps keep the environment clean from potentially harmful bacteria found on animal carcasses. It prefers large carcasses, such as those of deer or cattle. It can pick an animal’s carcass clean in under an hour—sometimes even eating the bones. The head and neck are meticulously kept clean by the bird, and their baldness is an adaptation for hygiene, allowing the skin to be exposed to the sterilizing effects of dehydration and ultraviolet light at high altitudes.

Condors will ride air currents, similar to the eagle. This is an efficient way of flying for a bird of its size. Condors have weak feet that are used more for walking than clutching food.

Found in Songbird ReMix Condors

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