Andean Condor

(Vultur gryphus)

FUN FACT

The Andean condor is the national symbol in many South American countries, and plays an important role in folklore and mythology.

Andean condors are among the largest flying birds, with a body weight of 20-25 lbs. and a wingspan of over 10 feet.  They are mostly black with large white patches on their wings and the distinctive bald head for which vultures are known.  Condors have no feathers on their heads to allow the birds to feed on carrion without getting their heads too dirty -- after a meal, condors can frequently be seen wiping their heads on the ground to clean themselves off.  The Andean condor is the only New World vulture that shows obvious differences between males and females.  Males have dark eyes and a fleshy crest on their heads, while females have bright red eyes and lack the crest.  Andean condors may live 50 years or longer.  The National Aviary is home to a female Andean condor, named Lianni.

Although they are long-lived, Andean condors reproduce slowly and are vulnerable to poisoning (both accidental and intentional) and other human factors.  Since 1989, over 60 of these spectacular birds have been hatched and reared in U.S. zoos and released in the remote regions of the Colombian Andes, including a male chick that was hatched at the National Aviary in 2003, named “Kendall”.  The National Aviary also hatched a female chick, Kachina, in 2007.  She is currently part of the breeding program at another zoo.

Distribution

Andes Mountains, Pacific coast of western South America

Habitat

Open country of the Andes Mountains.

Diet

Andean condors mainly feed on carrion (dead animals). This primarily includes large land mammals, but condors have been seen feeding on the carcasses of seals and whales near the coast. Condors may travel 150 miles a day in search of food and they often feed in groups. As scavengers, Andean condors act as a natural clean-up crew, eating dead animals before they become a health risk to humans and other animals.

Breeding

Andean condors form lifelong bonds and build a simple nest on a cliff or in a shallow cave. They generally lay 1-2 eggs, although it is uncommon for more than one chick to survive per nesting season. Andean condors generally reproduce only every other year, and chicks remain with their parents for two years until being displaced by the next generation.

Status

Near Threatened

At the Aviary

Visit Lianni the Andean Condor at Condor Court.