Andean Condor

Vultur gryphus

The Andean Condor is a species of South American bird. Found in the Andes mountains and adjacent Pacific coasts of western South America, it has the largest wing span of any land bird.

It is a large black vulture with a ruff of white feathers surrounding the base of the neck and, especially in the male, large white patches on the wings. The head and neck are nearly featherless, and are a dull red color, which may flush and therefore change color in response to the bird's emotional state. In the male, there is a wattle on the neck and a large, dark red comb or caruncle on the crown of the head. Unlike most birds of prey, the male is larger than the female.

The condor is primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion. It prefers large carcasses, such as those of deer or cattle. It nests at elevations of up to 16,000 ft, generally on inaccessible rock ledges. One or two eggs are usually laid. It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 100 years.

Although it is on average about 5 cm shorter from beak to tail than the California Condor, the Andean Condor is larger in wingspan, which ranges from 280 to 320 cm. It is also typically heavier, reaching a weight of 15 kg  for males and 14 kg  for females. Overall length can reach to 135 cm.

The adult plumage is a uniform black, with the exception of a frill of white feathers nearly surrounding the base of the neck and, especially in the male, large patches or bands of white on the wings which do not appear until the completion of the bird's first moulting. The head and neck are red to blackish-red and have few feathers. The head and neck are meticulously kept clean by the bird, and their baldness is an adaptation for hygiene, allowing the skin to be exposed to the sterilizing effects of dehydration and ultraviolet light at high altitudes. The crown of the head is flattened. In the male, the head is crowned with a dark red caruncle or comb, while the skin of his neck lies in folds, forming a wattle.[16] The skin of the head and neck is capable of flushing noticeably in response to emotional state, which serves to communicate between individuals. Juveniles have a grayish-brown general coloration, blackish head and neck skin, and a brown ruff.

The middle toe is greatly elongated, and the hind one is only slightly developed, while the talons of all the toes are comparatively straight and blunt. The feet are thus more adapted to walking, and are of little use as weapons or organs of prehension as in birds of prey. The beak is hooked, and adapted to tear rotting meat. The irises of the male are brown, while those of the female are deep red. The eyelids lack eyelashes.

Contrary to the usual rule for sexual dimorphism among birds of prey, the female is smaller than the male.


Regional Names
  • Spanish:
    óndor andino, cóndor de los Andes
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Vultur gryphus

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