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What Is an Andean Condor?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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The Andean condor, or Vultur gryphus, falls into the New World vulture category used to classify species of scavenger birds. The Cathartidae family consists of five vultures and two condors, including the Andean condor. This condor is native to the South American region, more specifically the Andes mountains.

These large birds have an overall dark brown to black color, like many vultures. The Andean condor, however, has a fluffy collar of white feathers that surrounds the neck base. Feathers on the neck and head are few in number, which makes these spots on the condor appear almost bald and shows the dull red tint that can change with the emotions that the birds experience.

Male and female condors are distinguishable from each other in several ways. Unlike many other types of birds, the males in this species are larger than the females. The males also have white patches on their wings, a wattle hanging from their neck and a large deep-red caruncle on their head. Males will have a light brown eye color, and females will have a reddish-brown eye color.

The Andean condor is a scavenger. It feeds off dead carcasses. Generally, this condor prefers to eat the carcass of a large animal, but it will eat smaller animals when the food supply is scarce.

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The species’ overall preference for larger food sources is why many of these condors have been slaughtered to protect livestock. Some people also have collected its feathers. This condor has been listed as an endangered species.

Consistent studying of Andean condors in their natural environments shows a relation between breeding, food supply and devastating storms. Under normal conditions, adequate food supply is low, and the Andean condor species does not breed regularly. When storms hit, the supply of animal carcasses increases, which leads to an increase in breeding and thus an increase in chicks being born.

Andean condors spend a lot of time in hiding while nesting. Females will lay only one or two eggs at a time. Nests will be at extreme heights along the mountaintops. The nests are simple bare ground resting spots that are exposed to most of the elements of weather.

Andean condor eggs incubate for about 54-58 days, and both parents share the sitting duty. The male relieves the female for a few hours each day to allow her to exercise and eat. When the newborn condor chicks hatch, they are covered in a soft, pale-gray down. The males have a small crest on their heads right from birth that grows as they do.

In the wild, condor chicks can fly at six months old, but they are raised by their parents until they are two years old. Their care is so lengthy that the condor parents will not breed again until the chicks leave the care of the parents. In captivity, breeding is encouraged and is increased by removing the eggs and raising the chicks by hand.

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