Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meet Dorothy

Meet Dorothy, the Andean Condor, the largest bird at the World Bird Sanctuary.  I will tell you about her history, natural history, and how she has melted the hearts of so many people that have met her, including my own.

Dorothy was hatched here at the World Bird Sanctuary’s propagation building in 2006.  She is almost six years old now.  Her parents were on loan to us courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo.  Her parent’s names are Gryph and Laurel, and they are involved in the Andean Condor Species Survival Program.

While they were here they produced six chicks, and four of those were released into the wilds of Columbia, South America.  Dorothy will stay here with us to be an education bird.  She has a wonderful personality to go along with her outstanding size.  During the times I’ve spent with Dorothy I’ve noticed that she always exhibits an endearing curiosity toward me and her surroundings in general--such as different landscaping in her exhibit, visitors and other birds in enclosures around her. 

Andean Condors can be found in the Andes Mountains along the Pacific coastline in South America.  They can be seen in open grasslands and high altitude regions in the mountains as well.  They travel to the coastal areas for food, but are uncommonly seen in forested areas. 

Condors are the largest members of the vulture family.  Andean Condors have a wingspan of 9 to 12 feet and stand four feet tall.  They range in weight from 20-30 pounds, and can live up to 50 years in the wild—often longer in captivity.  Their diet consists mostly of carrion (dead animals), but they will also search for seabird eggs and young animals, and will cover great distances soaring in the sky to look for food; sometimes up to 150 miles a day. 

These magnificent birds are an endangered species, with around 10,000 left in the world today.  Their population is decreasing due to illegal shooting, habitat disruption and secondary lead poisoning.  It’s also been theorized because there are so many feral dogs in South America now, the dogs consume all the dead animals before the condors have a chance to dine.  They do not sexually mature until six to eight years of age and then lay only one egg every one to two years.

These glorious birds have the most awesome ability to eat animals that have died from any disease or virus known to humans and not get sick! They are a dead end for disease.  Their stomach acid is so strong that it will stop anything in its path.  That’s pretty amazing!
Dorothy's father, Gryph, displaying his white ruff and his impressive caruncle--what girl could resist?
The Andean Condor is the only New World vulture to be sexually dimorphic.  Sexually dimorphic means that males and females of the same species do not look the same.  The male has a large, fleshy structure called the wattle which hangs below his beak and a comb (or caruncle) above his beak and eyes, whereas the female does not.  Sometimes vultures are gross, but we need them the most!
Dorothy's mother, Laurel, displaying the beautiful plumage and white ruff of an adult female Andean Condor
You are welcome to come to one of our annual events called International Vulture Awareness Day held on the first Saturday of September to see Dorothy and her cousins, the other vultures that reside at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Of course, our other birds will be there too!  You can learn many more amazing facts about Condors and Vultures during this fun filled day!

To see videos of Dorothy click here to go to our You Tube site and watch Dorothy receiving target training.  This is a positive reinforcement method used to train birds to go to a designated spot.  They learn that when they touch the stick (the target) they receive a reward.  In the video the trainer, Susan, is also using a clicker.  Every time Dorothy touches the stick, Susan clicks the clicker, which lets Dorothy know a reward is coming.  Clickers are important in training when a reward cannot be given immediately after the desired behavior.  When the bird is conditioned to know the clicker means reward, they accept the clicker sound as a reward until the real reward can be given.

As with all of our animals, Dorothy is available for adoption through our Adopt a Bird program.  To find out more information about adopting Dorothy click here (Link) or call 636-861-3225, ext 12.  All adoption donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.  

The next time you visit WBS I invite you to visit Dorothy on the exhibit line past the hospital.  She is definitely worth it!

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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