Condor

Condor, either of two species of New World, or American, vultures. The two species are the Andean condor and the California condor. Condors are among the world's largest flying birds.

The Andean condor has a wingspread of almost 10 feet (3 m), is about 50 inches (127 cm) long, and can weigh up to 30 pounds (14 kg). It has a dark gray, bare head. Around the neck is a collar of white cottony feathers. The male has wattles (fleshy outgrowths) on the head and neck. The body feathers are grayish or black with some white feathers on the wings. The Andean condor is found in western South America from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego. It is endangered due to indiscriminate hunting.

CondorsCondors are among the world's largest flying birds.

The California condor is from 45 to 55 inches (114 to 140 cm) long and has a wing-spread almost as large as that of the Andean condor. It is the largest bird of prey in North America, it is dark grayish black with white feathers on the underside of the wings. The bare head is reddish orange with a black ruff of feathers on the neck. There are no wattles. The California condor is on the verge of extinction because of destruction of its habitat and indiscriminate hunting. During 1982--87, all California condors were removed from the wild and placed in breeding programs at the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Since 1992, some of the condors raised in these programs have been released into the wild.

Condors feed on small rodents and carrion. The female lays one egg every other year.

Is the California Condor Really a Vulture?

Yes, the California condor is a member of the New World vulture family. Like other vultures, it has weak feet, and its head and neck are bare. This vulture also has keen eyesight, and it is a powerful flyer. A California condor can soar and glide a long way.

The California condor is in danger of becoming extinct. A big problem is loss of habitat. Condors need huge areas of open country where elk, cattle, and deer live. Condors feed on the carrion of these large animals. As cities grow, these animals have less and less land on which to live. Without their prey, the condors cannot survive either.

Fortunately, there is a recovery plan for these condors. They are being bred in animal centers in California and Idaho. The plan is to reintroduce condors into the wild in two different places. It is hoped that this will give the birds a good chance to survive.

Condors belong to the American vulture family, Cathartidae. The Andean condor is Vultur gryphus; the California condor, Gymnogyps califortnianus.