Not many birds can lay claim to being the national bird of 4 countries, but the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) can do just that! It is the national symbol of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, and plays an important role in the folklore and mythology of the Andean regions.
With a wingspan of over 3 meters (10 feet), the Andean Condor is considered the largest flying bird in the world. Fully grown adults can reach a whopping 15 kg (33 pounds) and can stand an impressive 1.2 meters tall. Even with their impressive wingspan, Andean Condors sometimes have a hard time staying aloft when in flight, due to their enormous weight. That is why this bird prefers windy areas, where it can glide effortlessly on the air currents. They can soar up to a breathtaking height of 5,500 metres (18,000 feet)!
Contrary to their names, the Andean Condors don’t just inhabit the Andean mountain region of South America. These birds can also be found in coastal areas, enjoying the sea breeze, and even some desert areas, where they take advantage of the thermal air currents. Andean Condor numbers are greatest in Argentina and Southern Chile. Their numbers are dropping in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, making sightings of the bird in these areas increasingly rare.
As the Andean Condor is a vulture, the bulk of its diet is carrion. Because of this, these birds perform a very important ecological job, a sort of natural clean-up crew. Sometimes they will also take smaller food items, including eggs from seabird colonies, sharks, dead and also live seabirds.
The life expectancy for the Andean Condor is an incredible 50 years. However, some have been known to live up to 75 years in captivity. They have a very intricate breeding system. The adults only lay one egg every two years and take care of the young for a long period of time.
This magnificent bird was placed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 1973 and is in danger of becoming completely extinct soon. The primary factor in its demise is overhunting by humans that mistakenly believe Condors threaten their livestock. Other factors include loss of habitat, and pesticide poisoning passing up the food chain.
Take a trip to South America and see the Andean Condor fly around the Andean peaks before it is too late. For more information on birding trips we offer to countries where these awesome vultures soar, get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.naturetravelbirding.com.