(Vultur gryphus)

FUN FACT

The Andean condor is the national bird of half of the countries in South America (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina), is incorporated in the flags of Bolivia and Ecuador. Andean condors play an important role in folklore and mythology throughout the Andean region.

Andean condors are among the largest flying birds, with a body weight of up to 30 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 which facilitates cleaning after they have been feeding on carrion (after a meal, condors can frequently be seen wiping their heads on the ground to clean themselves off). In addition, the direct exposure of their skin to the disinfecting properties of ultraviolet light helps eliminate any residual bacteria.  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 more.

Although they are long-lived, Andean condors reproduce slowly and are vulnerable to human persecution, including both intentional and secondary poisoning. Since 1989, over 60 of these spectacular birds have been hatched and reared in U.S. zoos, and some have been released in the remote regions of the Colombia, including a male chick named Kendall hatched at the National Aviary in 2003.A female chick, named Kachina, hatched at the Aviary in 2007is currently part of a breeding program at another zoo.  The National Aviary currently is partnering with Bioparque Amaru, a zoo in Ecuador, where the population has dwindled to about 25 pairs of adult breeding birds and fewer than 100 condors in all. The National Aviary provides help with the rehabilitation of injured wild condors and through future releases into the wild of Andean Condor chicks hatched at the National Aviary.

Distribution

Andes Mountains to the Pacific coast of South America

Habitat

Open grasslands and alpine regions of the high Andes Mountains; rarely found in deserts and coastal regions at lower elevations.

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.

Breeding

Andean condors form lifelong pair bonds and build a simple nest on a cliff ledge or in a shallow cave. They usually lay just a single egg and generally reproduce only every other year. Juveniles remain with their parents for two years until being displaced by the next generation; they do not acquire full adult plumage or breed until they are about 8 years old.

Status

Near Threatened

At the Aviary

Our Andean Condor (Lianni, Lurch, and Precious) live in Condor Court.