Monday, June 3, 2013

The Andean Condor

I want to talk about Andean Condors today because at the World Bird Sanctuary we are fortunate enough to have one sub adult female Andean Condor named Dorothy. 

Dorothy can be seen on our display line

Dorothy is on our display line of birds.   The Andean Condor is one of the world’s largest birds.  Considered to be a new world vulture (which are not birds of prey), the Andean Condor is found on the western coast of South America and in the Andes Mountains.  The Andean Condor is primarily black in color as an adult, and uniquely designed for a scavenger lifestyle. 

The Andean Condor is one of two Condor species in existence today.  Stretching up to eleven and a half feet from wing tip to wing tip, the Andean Condor is one of the world’s largest flying birds.  Males can weigh upwards of 30 pounds and females weigh up to 24 pounds as adults. 
Laurel, an adult female Andean Condor is Dorothy's mother
As they age Andean Condors will become dark gray overall and will develop a white ring at the base of the neck and white wing patches.  Mature males look different as adults, with a dark red bump on the top of the bill uniquely called a caruncle.  Unlike old world vultures (which are considered birds of prey), the Andean Condor has feet designed more for walking instead of a hunting/or defensive tool.
Dorothy's father, Gryph, displays the distinctive caruncle sported by the males
Adapted well to the scavenger lifestyle, the Andean Condor will travel great distances to find food (more than 120 miles in one day), and will regularly use warm rising air (thermals) to efficiently travel long distances.

The Andean Condor has almost no plumage on the head and neck because often times they will plunge their whole head and neck into a carcass.  The lack of feathers helps keep the Andean Condor mostly clean.  The upper part of the bill or beak is hooked and perfectly designed to tear chunks of meat from an old carcass.  They will feed on the remains of almost any carcass and naturally will target the largest carcasses that are available.  They don’t need to eat every day because they will often times gorge themselves at a single sitting, eating more than 5 pounds of food at a time, and even to the point that they can’t fly until the food has been fully digested!

Being the largest vulture species in their native habitat of South America, Andean Condors are one of just a few species of vultures that will feed first at a large carcass because they have such a strong and powerful beak. The smaller vulture species depend on the larger species to tear through the very thick outer layer of skin.

The Andean Condor is a very impressive bird to see and we at the World Bird Sanctuary are so lucky to have Dorothy as an ambassador of her species.  In my opinion she is by far the most popular bird to come and see on our display line.  Dorothy has the uncanny ability to grab the attention of the guests and is a real treat behold.

That being said I encourage our visitors to stop by and see Dorothy on the display line.  If there are any questions that you may have regarding Andean Condors or Dorothy any interpreter at WBS would be happy to answer them.  Please stop on by!

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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