Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Andean Condor

Andean Condor

Vultur gryphus

Photo: Captive Andean condor
Producing only one chick every other year, survival of the endangered Andean condor relies on captive breeding programs.
Photograph by Anne Keiser


Map: Andean condor range
Andean Condor Range

Fast Facts

Body, 4 ft (1.2 m); wingspan, up to 10.5 ft (3.2 m)
Up to 33 lbs (15 kg)
Protection status:
Did you know?
The Andean condor has the largest wing area of any bird.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Andean condor compared with adult man
Andean condors are massive birds, among the largest in the world that are able to fly. Because they are so heavy (up to 33 pounds/15 kilograms), even their enormous 10-foot (3-meter) wingspan needs some help to keep them aloft. For that reason, these birds prefer to live in windy areas where they can glide on air currents with little effort. Andean condors are found in mountainous regions, as their name suggests, but also live near coasts replete with ocean breezes and even deserts that feature strong thermal air currents.
These condors are mostly black, but males have a distinctive white "collar" around their necks and some white markings on their wings as well. Like their relatives, the California condors, Andean condors have bald heads.
Condors are vultures, so they keep their sharp eyes peeled for the carrion that makes up most of their diet. They prefer to feast on large animals, wild or domestic, and in picking the carcasses, they perform an important function as a natural clean-up crew. Along the coasts, condors will feed on dead marine animals like seals or fish. These birds do not have sharp predator's claws, but they will raid birds' nests for eggs or even young hatchlings.
These long-lived birds have survived over 75 years in captivity, but they reproduce slowly. A mating pair produces only a single offspring every other year, and both parents must care for their young for a full year.
The Andean condor is considered endangered but is in far better shape than its California cousin. Perhaps a few thousand South American birds survive, and reintroduction programs are working to supplement that number.


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