Friday, May 15, 2015

Birds On The Line: Dorothy

One of my favorite birds on the World Bird Sanctuary exhibit line is Dorothy, the Andean Condor.  I have had the pleasure to watch this amazing bird grow from a chick to a young adult. 

Closeup of Dorothy (photo: Cathy Spahn) 
Every year (with each molt) her colors change as her feathers transform into those of an adult condor.  I remember seeing her for the first time in the summer of 2006 when she was with her parents in our behind the scenes Condor enclosure; she was this little brown fuzz ball.  It is now 9 years later and she is almost a fully feathered adult.

This little fuzzball is baby Dorothy napping (photo: Cathy Spahn)

The Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus, lives in the mountainous regions of South America.  The Andean Condor is one of the largest flying birds in the world.  They tip the scale at 20 t 25 lbs, are up to 4 ft tall, and have a wingspan up to 10 ft.  Adult Andean Condors are mostly black with a fluffy white ruff of feathers around their neck and white patches along their wings.  They also have grayish red heads, the adult females have red eyes, and the males have a fleshy lump on the front of their heads called a caruncle. 

The Andean Condor lays its egg in a cave or rocky area.  They lay only one egg every other year.  The Andean condor was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1973.  They have been the victims of over-hunting, killed because farmers thought condors were killing livestock.  In fact, as with all vultures and their kin, condors feed on carrion (animals that have already died).  Pesticide poisoning has also affected the population.

Many zoos and other organizations have worked on breeding the Andean Condor and releasing them back into the wild. World Bird Sanctuary assisted with this program back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Dorothy’s parents, Gryph and Laurel, were housed at the World Bird Sanctuary for many years as part of the species survival program.   During the 10 years they were with us, they produced 6 chicks, 5 of which were sent to Venezuela for release to the wild.  Laurel and Gryph are now back at the Cincinnati Zoo, which was their home before they came to us.

Dorothy sunning (photo: Cathy Spahn) 
Dorothy is a very friendly young avian ambassador and can be seen many days sunning herself in her enclosure.  When vultures sun they sit with their wings open to maximize the amount of solar rays absorbed, somewhat like a solar collector.  Ultimately the sun transforms oils on their feathers into vitamin D, so when Dorothy preens her feathers, she takes in this important vitamin.

Dorothy is a very curious condor and loves to play with the toys in her enclosure.  She considers the hose a very special toy when we are trying to clean her exhibit or give her fresh water.

As with all of our resident animals, Dorothy is available for adoption through the World Bird Sanctuary’s Adopt A Bird program. Adoption does not mean that you can take her home, but you receive many cool items through the mail and you will help to feed and care for her during the coming year. If you are a fan of Dorothy’s please head to our website and adopt her.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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