The Andean Condor – A Huge Majestic Scavenger

If you want to see one of the most majestic birds in the world then you need to head over to the mountain range that dominates the western part of South America.

The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is a huge bird of the New World vulture family Cathartidae and the only member of the genus Vultur.

These aren’t the prettiest birds in the world, but let’s still take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about this amazing creature that holds a pretty astounding record.

These birds live at high altitudes in 2 mountain ranges

Even though the name of this bird makes us assume that it’s only native to the Andes Mountains in South America, they also live in another rather isolated mountain range in this continent called the Santa Marta Mountains.

This range is located in the northern part of Colombia which also means that their range in the north starts here. It then pretty much runs all across the continent through Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and western Argentina, all the way to the Tierra del Fuego in the utmost southern part of South America.

Their natural habitat is large open grass areas and other types of non-forested open areas. This bird also nests in places that we can’t reach such as rock ledges at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters (16,000 feet).

Andean condor facts
A condor flying in the Andes / Pixabay

It’s the biggest bird in the world by wingspan

The Andean condor is an enormous bird and is considered to be the biggest bird in the world measured by combined weight and wingspan. With an average weight of anywhere between 11 and 15 kilos (24 and 33 lbs) for males and 8 and 11 kilos (18 and 24 lbs) for females, this is indeed a pretty heavy bird!

With an average length of between 100 and 130 centimeters (3 feet 3 inches and 4 feet 3 inches), it’s not the tallest bird in the world because the California Condor is about 7 and 8 centimeters (2.8 and 3.1 inches) longer.

What makes this bird such a majestic creature is its wingspan which is unparalleled as it can reach a maximum length of up to 3.3 meters (10 feet 10 inches).

Andean condor wingspan
The huge wingspan of this amazing bird / Pixabay

They have a distinctive feature around their necks

If you happen to visit the Andes Mountains in South America and you see a huge bird flying around that has a band of fluffy white feathers around its neck, you can rest assured that it’s an Andean Condor.

This distinctive feature is more prominent in the male birds and they tend to keep it extremely clean as well to really make it stand out.

Perhaps one of the most amazing facts about Andean Condors is that the red patches on their head and neck flush when they are agitated. Yes, these birds actually turn very red when they are angry, usually in the company of other birds!

Andean Condor head
Close view of the bird / Michael Gäbler / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

The Andean Condor is an endangered species

Even though the range of this fascinating bird extends all across the western part of South America, they are considered to be endangered by both IUCN and the Peruvian Conservation Organization.

Their natural habitat is shrinking due to human activity and it’s estimated that only 6,700 individuals are flying around in the Andes Mountains today.

Luckily, these birds have a very long lifespan. The oldest bird ever recorded was named “Thaao” (1930-2010) and reached the age of 79. He lived at Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut.

Andean condor at the zoo
A condor at the zoo / Emilio del Prado / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

This is the best place in the world to spot them

Apart from being able to admire these wonderful birds in the best zoos in the world, there’s one location where there are actually facilities to spot them.

If you want to see this amazing animal glide along the cliffs of the majestic mountainous area they live in, they you need to head over to the Colca Canyon in Peru. Here there are viewing platforms where you can admire these creatures up close as they fly around in their natural habitat.

And yes, that’s a pretty astonishing sight to behold!

Andean Condor in the Colca Canyon
Flying around in the Colca Canyon / Scott Nelson / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en