– The Andean Condor –
A southern giant in danger
The Andean Condor or Vultur Gryphus, is an immense South American bird, the second in size capable of flying after the Wandering Albatross.
In Adulthood, these birds can weigh up to 15 kg. with a wingspan of 3 meters. They nest on rocky high cliffs between the 1000 and 5000 masl to take advantage of warm air currents that help them fly with little effort almost without moving their wings and explore areas of 300 km. per day reaching altitudes near to the 10.000 meters.
Which are the habitats of the Andean Condor?
This magnificent bird can be found, as it suggested by his name mainly in the Andean Range from the Argentine – Chilean Patagonia to Colombia and Venezuela in a lesser extent, having one of its major habitats in the Colca Canyon in Peru, although they also are found near to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts where they find the thermal breezes they need to fly.
Characteristics of the Andean Condor
Unlike most bird species, the male Andean Condor is bigger than the female, having both black feathers with a white collar in their neck and a white stripe on their wings, their heads are bald and change of color depending on their mood.
The Andean Condor are vultures, which mean that they feed mainly from dead animals mostly big mammals like livestock. This condition make them a very important part of the ecosystem balance due to they take care of the decomposing animal cadavers thus preventing the spread of infections, diseases and contamination.
The Andean Condor reach its sexual maturity after 6 or 8 years and is one of the longest-lived species of birds in the world, capable of living over 50 years. They are monogamous, finding only another partner if the previous dies. Their reproduction cycle is slow, having each couple only one chick every 2 years in which both parent share the incubation for 50 to 60 days, taking care of their hatchlings for the first two years.
Why these condor are endangered?
Due to the false belief that the Andean Condor attacks the livestock, over the last 2 centuries, this specie have been hunted and poisoned by cattlemen and hunters reducing its presence to the point of be considered a “near threatened” specie by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
Having a current estimated population of 10,000, countries like Peru, Colombia, Venezuela (where this species was reinserted from specimens bred in captivity) have preservation programs that aim to reestablish normal population levels and save the Andean Condor from extinction.