At the Zoo
You can find the Andean Condor at the Zoo's mixed species Puente al Sur exhibit across the path from the guanacos, rhea, and capybara.
- Andean condors have cultural significance in South America as they were revered by the Incas as the representative of the heavens. World heritage site Machu Picchu contains several references to condors and the layout of the site is said to resemble a condor from above.
- Andean condors spend their days soaring on thermals, traveling over 100 miles per day at high altitudes.
- Unlike other members of the vulture family, Andean condors rely on sight rather than smell to find food.
- They will sometimes follow smaller birds, such as turkey vultures, to a food source in a mutually beneficial relationship, as they can use their powerful beaks to tear into the carcass, allowing the smaller birds to feed more easily.
They are the largest, flying, land bird with a weight between 17–33 pounds and a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet. This species, unlike other vultures, shows a significant degree of sexual dimorphism. Males are larger than females and have a “caruncle”, or crest, on the top of their head and a wattle under the bill. Females have red irises, while male condor’s eyes are brown. Both male and female are predominantly black with white flight feathers. Juveniles have a grayish-brown plumage.
They have a white ruff of feathers around their neck and a bald head. This bald adaptation is thought to help keep their heads clean and regulate temperature. The skin on the head and neck can change colors in order to communicate, especially during courtship. They have a hooked beak which they use to tear into carcasses.
Lifespan is around 50 years in the wild, and about 75 years in captivity.
As their name suggests, Andean condors are found in the Andes Mountains along western South America. They inhabit areas up to 18,000 feet, as well as coastal ranges, lowland desert and open grasslands.
They eat mainly carrion, although they will occasionally eat eggs or prey on wounded animals.
Andean condors will congregate in groups near a food source and while roosting. These birds are monogamous and mate for life. Males will court females several months prior to mating and choosing a nesting spot.
Breeding season varies throughout their range but typically occurs from February to June. Nests are very primitive, consisting of a loose arrangement of sticks or just flat bare ground on a high cliff ledge. A single egg is laid and will be incubated by both parents for 54-58 days. Once the chick hatches, it will be 6-7 months before it fledges and both parents will continue to care for it. The chick will stay with the parents for about two years.
Status In The Wild
Andean condors are listed as near threatened by the IUCN. These threats are primarily due to habitat loss and human persecution, both accidental and intentional. These birds have a naturally slow reproductive rate, and are thus sensitive to any population decline.