Feeding Behavior

  • Andean Condors rely heavily on their sight and a high capacity for associative learning to find their food source
  • Andean Condors share their scavenging areas with three other members of the family of New World (American) vultures; the turkey vulture, the king vulture, and the black vulture.
  • Similar to the feeding habits of other animals, the Andean Condor appears to follow a linear hierarchy at the feeding site according to age and sex; the oldest being the most dominant and all males except the very young feeding before the females.
  • Condors are able to travel 200 miles a day at great heights while foraging for food, which makes them nearly impossible to visually track for any assessment of numbers or migration.
  • Rather than killing prey for themselves, Andean Condors are predominantly scavengers, preferring to feed upon the remains of dead.
  • Fighting for food with other scavenging birds is dangerous and likely to lead to injury for a bird with such delicate feathers as the Andean Condor. Instead of physical confrontation, the Condors have evolved ritual displays which allow them to recognize the more dominant individuals, resolving conflicts quickly. Aggression is a rare characteristic for the Andean Condor.
  • The absence of head plumage is an adaption necessitated by feeding on carrion. This allows the birds to poke their heads into the animal carcass without becoming overly soiled. The soiled head is easily cleaned as there are no feathers for the food to stick to.

Social Behavior

  • Juveniles and unpaired adults may roost in groups. Otherwise pairs usually roost together. Large groups may gather at a feeding site.
  • Breeding for the Andean Condor most likely occurs in alternate years. When feeding conditions are poor, they may not breed at all.
  • The Andean Condor performs a courtship display. The birds walk back and forth with their wings out, while making hissing and clucking sounds.

Other Unusual Characteristics

  • Allowing their body temperature to fall several degrees during the night to conserve energy (thermoregulation), the Andean Condor will spread its wings in the morning and throughout the day. Not only does this allow them to raise their body temperature quickly, it also helps to straighten their feathers that have a tendency to bend from constant flight.
  • Because of their range, Condors rely on thermals (warm air currents) to soar for long periods of times and distances. Young birds do not become skilled flyers until 7 months of age.
  • The Condor has no voice box and is silent for the most part, lacking the ability to produce normal bird calls or sounds.
  • Female birds have bright red eyes and do not possess the male’s characteristic fleshy head crest.

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