An Andean Condor soars over southern Peru's Colca Canyon.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Cathartidae


Condor is the name for two species of New World vultures, each in a monotypic genus. They are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere.

They are:



Condors are part of the family Cathartidae, whereas the 15 species of Old World vultures are in the family Accipitridae, that also includes falcons, hawks, and eagles. The New World and Old World vultures evolved from different ancestors. However, they both are carrion-eaters and have distinctive bare heads.

California Condor in high speed flight. Note tip feathers faired to reduce drag.

See Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy for an alternative classification.


Both condors are very large broad-winged soaring birds, the Andean Condor being 5 cm shorter (beak to tail) on average than the northern species, but larger in wingspan. California Condors are the largest flying land birds in North America. The Andean Condor is second only to the Wandering Albatross (up to 3.5 m) in terms of wingspan among all living flying birds.[1][2]

The adult plumage is uniformly black, with the exception of a frill of white feathers nearly surrounding the base of the neck and are meticulously kept clean by the bird. As an adaptation for hygiene, the condor's head and neck have few feathers, which exposes the skin to the sterilizing effects of dehydration and solar ultraviolet light at high altitudes. The head is much flattened above. In the male it is crowned with a caruncle or comb, while the skin of the neck in the male lies in folds, forming a wattle. The skin of the head and neck is capable of flushing noticeably in response to emotional state, which serves to communicate between individuals.

An Andean condor soars over southern Peru's Colca Canyon.
Immature California condor

The middle toe is greatly elongated, and the hinder one but slightly developed, while the talons of all the toes are comparatively straight and blunt. The feet are thus more adapted to walking as in their relatives the storks, and of little use as weapons or organs of prehension as in birds of prey and Old World vultures. The female, contrary to the usual rule among birds of prey, is smaller than the male.

Although it is on average about five cm shorter from beak to tail than the California Condor, the Andean Condor is larger in wingspan, ranging from 274 to 310 cm (8.99 to 10.2 ft).[3] It is also heavier, reaching up to 11 to 15 kg (24 to 33 lb) for males and 7.5 to 11 kg (17 to 24 lb) for females.[4] Overall length can range from 117 to 135 cm (46 to 53 in)[5] Measurements are usually taken from specimens reared in captivity.[3]

California Condors' wingspan measures up to 2.9 m (9.5 ft), and they can weigh up to 10.4 kg (23 lb). The skin on the necks will vary in color, depending on the age of the birds. Adult birds' skin color can range from cream, pink, yellow, or even orange during breeding season.

California Condor's head

Fossil record

Fossils from the Pleistocene era have been found in various parts of North America, including New York and Florida, leading scientists to believe that California Condors or their ancestors once lived on the west coast of North America as well as all the way to the eastern coast. Some scientists also believe that an ancient relative of the condor, Argentavis magnificens from South America, may have been the largest flying bird ever with a wingspan of 7 metres (23 ft).[6]

A California Condor in flight over the Grand Canyon.


Sexual maturity and breeding behavior do not appear in the condor until 5 or 6 years of age. They may live for 50 years or more, and mate for life. The world's oldest condor died at 100 in the Jardin d'Essai du Hamma in Algiers.[7]

A Condor flying alone in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

The young are covered with a grayish down until they are almost as large as their parents. They are able to fly after six months, but continue to roost and hunt with their parents until age two, when they are displaced by a new clutch. There is a well-developed social structure within large groups of condors, with competition to determine a 'pecking order' by body language, competitive play behavior, and a wide variety of vocalizations, even though the condor has no voice box.

On the wing the movements of the condor, as it wheels in circles, are remarkably graceful. The lack of a large sternum to anchor correspondingly large flight muscles identifies it physiologically as a primary soarer. The birds flap their wings on rising from the ground, but after attaining a moderate elevation they seem to sail on the air.

Wild condors inhabit large territories, often traveling 250 km (160 mi) a day in search of carrion. They prefer large carcasses such as deer or cattle which they spot by looking for other scavengers, which cannot rip through the tougher hides of these larger animals with the efficiency of the larger condor. In the wild they are intermittent eaters, often going for a few days without eating, then gorging themselves on several kilograms at once, sometimes to the point of being unable to lift off the ground.

A numbered Condor in Grand Canyon, Arizona.


Moche Condor. 300 A.D. Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru.

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshiped nature.[8] They placed emphasis on animals and often depicted condors in their art.[9] The same is true of the later Inca civilizations: the condor represented sky as one of the three celebrated animals.

California Condors are intertwined in many Native American cultures. There are people who believe California Condors were the origin of the Thunderbird myth,[citation needed] while some Western tribes regarded the California Condors as sacred beings, using feathers in religious ceremonies.[citation needed] The Chumash tribe believes that if the condors become completely extinct, so will the tribe.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Robertson, C. J. R. (2003). "Albatrosses (Diomedeidae)". In Hutchins, Michael. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 8 Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. pp. 113–116, 118–119. ISBN 0 7876 5784 0. 
  2. ^ Dunn, Jon L.; Alderfer, Jonathon (2006). "Accidentals, Extinct Species". In Levitt, Barbara. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (fifth ed.). Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society. p. 467. ISBN 978 0 7922 5314 3. 
  3. ^ a b Ferguson-Lees, James; Christie, David A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-12762-3. 
  4. ^ Lutz, Dick; Lutz, Richard L. (2002). Patagonia: At the Bottom of the World. DIMI Press. pp. 71–74. ISBN 0931625386. 
  5. ^ Hilty, Stephen L. (1977). A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press. pp. 88. ISBN 069108372X. 
  6. ^ Campbell,K.E. & Tonni, E.P. 1983. Size and locomotion in teratorns (Aves: Teratornithidae). Auk. 1983; 100(2): 390-403
  7. ^
  8. ^ Benson, Elizabeth, The Mochica: A Culture of Peru. New York, NY: Praeger Press. 1972
  9. ^ Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Condor — oder Cóndor (Bezeichnung für die beiden Kondor genannten Vogelarten in verschiedenen Sprachen) steht für: einen Ort in Südbrasilien, siehe Condor (Rio Grande do Sul) einen Berg in Argentinien, siehe El Cóndor einen Ort in der Provinz Jujuy in… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • condor — [ kɔ̃dɔr ] n. m. • 1598; mot esp., du quechua du Pérou ♦ Oiseau rapace d Amérique (falconiformes), au plumage noir, frangé de blanc aux ailes. ● condor nom masculin (espagnol condor, du quechua kuntur) Très grand rapace diurne des Andes et de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • condor — CONDÓR, condori, s.m. Cel mai mare vultur, cu capul şi cu gâtul golaş, complet mut, care trăieşte în munţii Americii de Sud (Sarcorhamphus gryphus). [acc. şi: cóndor] – Din fr. condor. Trimis de ana zecheru, 15.05.2003. Sursa: DEX 98 … …   Dicționar Român

  • Condor 10 — À Saint Malo (2003) Autres noms Condor Ten (1992) Type Ferry Histoire Lancement …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Condor — Con dor (k[o^]n d[o^]r; in defs. 2 & 3, k[ o]n d[ o]r), n. [Sp. condor, fr. Peruvian cuntur.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) A very large bird of the Vulture family ({Sarcorhamphus gryphus}), found in the most elevated parts of the Andes. [1913 Webster] 2. (Zo[… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • CONDOR — ist die auflagenstärkste deutschsprachige Zeitung Chiles. Sie erscheint seit 1938 und erreicht heute eine Auflagenstärke von etwa 6.000 Stück, hat jedoch eine höhere Anzahl von Lesern. Sie informiert ihre Leser wöchentlich über die Politik Chiles …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • condor — [kän′dər, kän′dôr; ] for 3, Sp [ kō̂n′dō̂r΄] n. [Sp cóndor < Quechuan cuntur] 1. a very large vulture (Vultur gryphus) of the South American Andes, with black plumage, bare head and neck, and a ruff of downy white feathers at the base of the …   English World dictionary

  • Condor [1] — Condor, Inseln, so v. w. Pulo Condor (P. Condore) …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Condor [2] — Condor (Sarcoramphus Gryphus Dumer., Vultur Gr. Lin., Kondur, Greifgeier), ein geierartiger Raubvogel aus der Gattung der Kronengeier, die sich durch durchgehende Nasenlöcher u. einen fleischig knorpeligen Stirnkamm der Männchen von den Geiern… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Condor — Condor, Goldmünze in Chile, = 20 Pesos = 30,64 Mk.; in Kolumbien 1853 mit 14,76 g Gold, auch 1/2 und 1/2 Stücke, seit dem Gesetz von 1857 die halbe Onza = 40,5 Mk., auch doppelt …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Condor — Condor, südamerik. Goldmünze, in Neugranada von 1853 57 = 41,18 M, nach 1857 = 401/2 M, in Chile = 38,3 M, seit 1895 = 30,64 M …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

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