Condors: High-flying kings
The term "Condor" comprises the two largest representatives from the family of the New World Vultures (Cathartidae). These are the majestic Andean condor and the Californian condor which is widespread in the USA. The name is derived from the Quechua loan word "Kuntur". In this blog article the main focus will be on the Andean Condor.
Andean Condors are powerful, black gripping birds, who possess distinct white/silver flight feathers and contour feathers at the upper side as well as a white “ruff” that separates the bare, reddish-brown head of the torso. A voluminous comb covers the top of the head. They can weigh up to 15 kilogrammes and are therefore among the heaviest birds of prey in the world. In addition, they belong to the few birds, whose wingspan can amount to over 300 centimeters. Female condors are often smaller and lighter than males, but they resemble males in shape and colour, i.e. there is no sexual dimorphism (difference in appearance between the sexes). The young birds usually show a gloomy dark brown color.
The Andean Condor is a scavenger, but it can happen that it actively tries to crash its prey (e.g. mountain goats or sheep) by beating its wings violently when it is on steep mountain slopes. When the animal has died, the Andean condor can eat its prey.
Rock ledges and platforms serve as nesting sites, where the birds raise a young one every two years. The incubation amounts to up to 65 days. Both partners are responsible for the egg. At first, the young bird is fed twice a day, later only once again. When it is big enough (usually after approximately 6 months), it becomes fledged and is released into independence.
The IUCN estimates the total Andean Condor population at about 10,000 adult birds and lists the species in the near threatened (NT) category. Especially through intensive hunting since the discovery of the American continent by the Spaniards, the population of the species has strongly decreased; especially in the northern Andean states, the Andean condor has largely disappeared or exists only in small, isolated remainders.
For a comprehensive protection of the animals a broad biological knowledge about ecology and behaviour of the animals would be necessary, however, this information is missing to a large extent, primarily because the condors have a large movement radius and often live in areas inaccessible for humans.
Natucate offers several courses and internships in South America. As part of our ranch project in the Patagonian Andes or a nature course/internship in Peru, it might be possible to spot one or two of these impressive birds in the wild. And also volunteering in the USA might allow you to witness the majestic Californian condor.