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Andean Condor
Vultur gryphus

Andean Condor
Cóndor Andino
Vultur gryphus
Length: 1300mm. Sexes slightly unlike. Male: beak with apical half whitish grey and basal half covered with a blackish skin; iris yellowish brown; head and naked part of neck yellowish pink; big brown fleshy wattle at the base of the bill and on forehead; ornamental wrinkles on both sides of the head; large naked chin at base of throat; underside of neck also bare up to upper breast; close to the base of the neck, in the naked region, there is a skin fold shaped like a nipple. Large white collar made of down feathers in the upper part of the feathered area of the neck; rest of the neck, back, scapulars, rump, uppertail coverts and rectrices black; the greater scapular feathers and the outermost rectrices on either side show a thin white longitudinal band. Breast, sides, abdomen and undertail coverts are black. Undersides of wings black; dorsally the lesser and median coverts are black, the longer median coverts being silver white; greater wing coverts silver white, with the outermost feathers having a black base extending in the shape of a longitudinal marginal band; secondaries silver white with a terminal black band and external black margin broadening at the outermost feathers; primaries black. Legs black usually covered with alkaline excreta conferring a whitish look. Female: plumage resembles that of male; it is smaller and lacks the wattle on head. The head is grey, the iris red. Juveniles: head and neck covered with grey down and a grey collar; rest of the plumage is ochraceous brown but for the remiges and rectrices, which are dark brown. The young males show the distinctive comb at a very early stage. Habitat and behaviour: the Andean Condor is especially recognised for its huge size, its black and white coloration and bald head; its large broad wings have the greatest supporting surface of all current living flying birds. The flight is majestic and soaring, a condor can astoundingly master thermal updrafts to reach high altitudes, describing wide circles effortlessly on motionless wings. As seen from below, its dark silhouette—where the white collar and the separate primaries tipped upwards stand out—helps to identify it. On the other hand, when one has the opportunity to observe it flying at close quarters and its dorsal parts are exposed, the vast expanse of its white secondaries is conspicuous; when it gives a turn, attention is drawn to the movement of its long primaries and tail. As it travels through the air, it causes a strong humming. Habitat and behaviour: these birds fly in pairs or in groups whose numbers may vary according to circumstances and can range from ten to twenty and even seventy individuals; the largest gatherings can be seen in their usual roosting places or when they gather for a feast around the carcass of a large dead animal. If they happen to spot the remains of a cow, horse, sheep or guanaco, they may wait many days before coming down to eat, and this they will do only if there is no danger nearby. If they are disturbed while eating, they quickly fly away; to take off they must taxi along a short distance; if they have eaten in excess, and they are on flat land, they will search for an elevated spot from where they can lift off; if necessary, they get rid of extra weight by regurgitating the contents of their stomach.
The buitreras, as their roosting and nesting places are locally known, are often in inaccessible rock walls covered with white abundant excreta. While trekking in the hills, no bird in sight, suddenly many will appear out of nowhere, attracted by some sound. They approach full of curiosity, describing circles around what calls their attention. The young may fly at a very close range. The Andean Condor nests in caves located in inaccesible rock walls, one white egg being laid.
Chicks are born with a greyish brown down; the parents cannot grasp food since they are clawless so they must use their crop, thus feeding the chicks with regurgitated predigested food. The chicks must remain in the nest for several months until fledging. Juveniles take many years before acquiring full adult plumage, which is attained gradually. Range: still fairly common, the Andean Condor’s distribution extends throughout the Andes, from Venezuela and Colombia to Tierra del Fuego. It also occurs in pre-Andean areas. In Peru these birds often visit the marine islands, densely inhabited by colonies of the Guanay Cormorant (Phalacrocorax bougainvillii). In Argentina, a steady population of condors can be seen in the mountainous area of the province of Córdoba. In Patagonia, it can be observed from Neuquén to Tierra del Fuego; although its habitat is the highlands, it is commonly found and easily seen in the sub-Andean area; further south in this region, the species reaches the marine shores.
Illustrated Handbook of the Birds of Patagonia
Kindless: Kovacs Family

Photographs: Mariano Diez Peña

Birding Patagonia • Birdwatcing in Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina and Chile.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction of photographs is forbidden without permission from the authors.
Photographs on the website: Mariano Diez Peña