ANDEAN CONDOR

VULTUR GRYPHUS

The Brandywine Zoo has two Andean Condors. Our female, Gryphus was hatched at The Bronx Zoo on May 1, 1979. She moved to the Dallas Zoo in 1981 for several months before coming to us on April 9, 1981. Both of Gryphus’ parents were wild-born. Our male, Chavin, hatched on June 10, 1986 at the LA County Zoo, later lived at the Sedgewick County Zoo before coming to the Brandywine Zoo on October 18, 2010.

HABITAT
They live along the rocky cliffs and tree perches of the mountains.

GEOGRAPHIC REGION AND RANGE
Found in South America along the Andean Mountain chain from Venezuela to the Strait of Magellan including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

DIET
Carnivores and scavengers. Carrion eaters, which means they primarily eat large carcasses (goat, cattle, sheep, deer, horse and coyote).

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION
The body is feathered in black with large white patches on the underside of the wings and white, downy feathers surround the neck. 6 at 20 years old. Male condors have a rigid piece of skin called a “comb” on top their heads as well as golden-colored eyes.

SIZE
Length: 38 – 50 inches

WEIGHT
Females 17 – 24 lbs; Males 24 – 33 lbs

LIFESPAN
Wild: 50 years
Under Human Care: 75+ years

THREATS
Andean condors are listed as Endangered in Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador and Vulnerable across many other countries in South America. This species is persecuted by livestock farmers who worry about their lambs and calves and by seabird guano workers attempting to keep condors from scavenging on chicks. They are captured for traditional rituals, collide with power lines, and are losing food sources to habitat loss and competition with feral dogs. The persecution of mountain lions and foxes through the illegal poisoning of carcasses also results in secondary poisoning of condors and other vultures throughout their range. Increased tourism in parts of Chile and Argentina may have led to a reduction in persecution by demonstrating the ecotourism value of the species (S. Imberti in litt. 2003).

STATUS
Near Threatened

REPRODUCTION
• Reproductive rates are extremely low, with a single egg is laid every other year by a breeding pair.
• Both the male and female take turns incubating the egg for about 54 to 58 days.

BEHAVIOR
• Diurnal, day-active
• Condors  are able to soar without flapping for more than an hour, and may cover 100-200 miles per day.
• Condors spend more time a day roosting than flying. This time is mostly taken up with preening or sunning. Sunning usually happens first thing in the morning, so they can warm up with the sun’s rising.
• New World vultures have the unusual habit of urohidrosis, defecating on their legs, to cool them.

SOCIAL STRUCTURE
• Vultures are varyingly social not only with individuals of their own species, but also with other vulture species. Together, they make up scavenger guilds, with each species filling a specific role or niche when finding or consuming a carcass. The largest species, such as condors vultures, may not be the first to arrive but maybe necessary to open a carcass with their large beaks. Small species, like yellow-headed vultures pick the small bits with their fine beaks.

COMMUNICATION
They do not have songs or vocalizations other than growling, grunting and hissing noises, due to their lack of syrinx, directed at other condors, in social situations like group roosting and feeding.

FUN FACTS

The Andean condor is the national bird of half of the countries in South America and plays an important role in folklore and mythology throughout the Andean region.

In July of 1942, the first Andean condor hatched in a US Zoo was born at the San Diego Zoo

The oldest known Andean Condor was 79.

A group of vultures is called a wake, committee, venue, kettle, or volt. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight. Committee, volt, and venue refer to vultures resting in trees. A wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding.

A vulture’s stomach acids are so strong, they can even dissolve metal!

The Andean condor’s wingspan is second only to the wandering albatross (up to 3.5 m) in terms of wingspan among all living flying birds.

What are AZA Zoos doing for Andean Condors?

Andean Condors are part of a managed conservation breeding program. The Yellow level SSP, managed by the Raptor TAG, supports in-situ field research which places telemetry devices on adults to study ranges and territories. Brandywine Zoo regularly supports this program financially. 

Since 1989, over 60 of these spectacular birds have been hatched and reared in US zoos, and some have been released in the remote regions of Colombia. Since 1989, 68 Andean condors, raised in American and Colombian zoos, have been released in Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru in an attempt to re-establish the birds in their range countries. As of 2018, 69 Andean condors live in 32 AZA facilities. 

More images of our Andean Condors