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Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Tell Me Why |

What Is a Condor and How Big Is It?

What Is a Condor and How Big Is It?

Condor is the common name for two species of New World vultures, each in a monotypic genus. The name derives from the Quechua kuntur. They are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere. They are: The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) & The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus).

The Andean condor which inhabits the Andean mountains. The Andean Condor has one of the largest wing span among the birds. A male condor looks different from a female condor. The male possesses a large comb over his head that the female condor lacks. The Andean Condor is the national symbol and national bird of many South American Countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia.

The habitat of the Andean Condor specifically in the big and lofty mountain range found in Pacific Coast region in Western South America. It also found in north-western Venezuela and Colombia and some places South to Tierra del Fuego. This large hunter can be perceived soaring lofty mountain canyons as well as mountains all over the Andes or Southern part. It often flies above grassland regions and searches for the prey.

The Andean Condors are specially built for flying effortlessly and can soar for long periods steadily without wasting a huge amount of energy. They flap their large and massive wings occasionally. It also has the ability to float in the air well at the same place and their wings flying with less pull and with less air resistance.

The Andean Condors have black bodies, featherless heads, and white neck ruff. Juveniles have greyish brown colour without white neck ruff and there are visible differences in physical characteristics between a male condor and female condor. Mainly, a male condor has yellow eyes and a female has red eyes. It is a carrion eater, which means it eats animals that are already dead. They also eat new-born calves of goat and cows. It mainly keeps the environment clean by eating dead animals and its large size helps it dominate all other avian hunters who eat carcass.

california condor

The California condor currently restricted to the western coastal mountains of the United States and Mexico and the northern desert mountains of Arizona in the United States. California Condor is one of the largest birds in the world and the largest bird in North America. Currently the Condor survives in the eastern region of California, Arizona and southern California. It has a powerful ability to fly in the warm air and strong sunny climate conditions. It can reach an unbelievable height of 15000 feet while flying.

The California Condor can be 3.5 to 4.5 feet in length and can obtain a weight of 18 to 31 pounds. The length of the California condor wingspan reaches from 9 to 10 feet. Their whole body is layered with black feathers. They have a bald head with a little hair on the head on some of the birds. The condor’s head skin changes colour to reflect its emotions and communicate with each other. 

It eats dead animals which could cause infections of bacteria, but the bald head prevents bonding of rotten meat on the head. It is a vulture that prefers remains of cattle, sheep, and deer. In addition to that, the condor eats smaller animals like rabbits and rodents on some occasions. 

It is a huge appetite and needs short periods rest before their next round of flight. It can travel around 150 miles in a day specifically searching for prey. In their diet, the condors will focus only on the essential animals and eliminates the carcasses by cleaning it up naturally, thereby preventing the spread of various diseases in the environment.

It doesn’t have a good sense of smell, but amazing eyesight which helps it spot prey from a long distance. It forms nests in the rock crevices or under the rocks. The new-born Condor will fly after six months of age after which it will become a proficient flyer. A growing chick will stay under the care of its parents for a few months. It reproduces every second year and can obtain a long lifespan in the right conditions. It can live up to 60 years.

Condors are considered sacred animals by many Native American cultures, particularly California Indian tribes and the Andean tribes of South America. According to the origin mythology of the Wiyot Indians, Condor was the ancestor of their tribes. Other California tribes believe condors have healing powers, and California Indian doctors frequently use condor feathers as part of their traditional medicine ceremonies.

In the Quechua and Aymara cultures of South America, Condor is a symbol of the sky, and is frequently represented in tribal art. The Mapuche people call Condor the King of Birds, and believe he embodies the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, justice, goodness, and leadership. Some California tribes, like the Chumash, Miwok and Pomo, have also had a Condor Dance among their tribal dance traditions.

Content for this question contributed by Kristen Allison, resident of Myricks, Berkley, Bristol County, Massachusetts, USA