Vultures are among the largest birds of prey, but they come in varying sizes themselves. There are several species within the vulture category, and it’s believed that the largest of these are Condor Vulture, also known as the Andean Condor. The physical details of this bird are as follows:
- Maximum wingspan: 3.2 meters (10.5 feet)
- Body weight: 14 kilograms
- Maximum flying speed: 130 kilometers per hour
- Distance covered without flapping wings: 15 kilometers
- Number of feathers in the wing that are independently used for navigation: 40
With these features, it’s small wonder that the Andean condor is deemed to be quite important in several counties. It’s the national symbol of Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and the Venezuelan Andes states. In the South America Andean area, this bird is also an instrumental part of mythology and folklore.
Andean condors are believed to be the heaviest kind of flying bird. Due to their size, these vultures prefer to dwell in windy locations. This is because they can use the strong air currents to glide and thus move more easily. These locations are usually in Central and South America.
Interestingly, though, this huge vulture doesn’t have much preference when it comes to the kind of terrain or surroundings they inhabit as long as they get their wind requirement. They’re found in mountains, deserts, and even near oceans. The Andes Mountains as well as the Pacific coast off western South America seem to be the prime locations for spotting an Andean condor.
Some might confuse the Andean Condor with the bald eagle due to its black plumage and bald head. This combination actually helps the vulture to feast on dead animals without getting noticeably dirty. That’s right; the diet of the Andean Condor is mostly made up of animal corpses, as is the case with all vultures.
The favorite meal of the Andean Condor seems to be large animals, whether they are wild or domestic. A large animal carcass means that several vultures can feed on it at the same time.
The Andean Condor is an endangered species, with only a few thousand remaining in the whole world (that we know of). This low population is due to the loss of its natural habitat as well as from secondary poisoning. The latter occurs when the condor eats from carrion that has been poisoned by humans.
However, there have been some intense conservation efforts to restore the species, including captive breeding programs. This has resulted in a slow but substantial increase in the Andean Condor population.
As mentioned above, the Andean condor vulture has an impressive wingspan. Only four water birds and seabirds have a wingspan bigger than this bird—these are the great white pelican, the Dalmatian pelican, the southern royal albatross, and the wandering albatross.
The Andean Condor also has a ruff consisting of white feathers at the bottom of its neck. In the male condor, there are also large patches of white on its wings. The neck itself as well as the head is devoid of feathers. This area can even change its color and turn red if the bird gets agitates. The male also sports a wattle on its neck as well as a comb/caruncle on its crown. The latter is dark red in color.
Another interesting fact about this species is that the female is smaller than the male. This is uncommon for birds of prey. However, many other kinds of birds usually have the same pattern of sexual dimorphism.
The condor will also reach sexual maturity when it’s five or six years old. It makes its nest at a high elevation, usually at 5,000 meters, or 16,000 feet. The nest is usually on a rock ledge that’s inaccessible by humans or animals. The female condor lays a couple of eggs at the most, sometimes only one. However, these birds also have quite a long lifespan, even attaining an age of 70 years and more.
- Andean Condor (Wikipedia)