The mighty Andean condor is a spectacular sight, and one that many visitors to the Ecuadorian highlands hope to enjoy. Given its tremendous presence, it should come as no surprise that this bird is considered a national symbol for not just Ecuador, but also Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina too. They are even featured on the Ecuadorian flag! and by taking the right holiday itinerary of Ecuador you will get to see it. Here we will explore everything you need to know about the Andean condor, including the bird’s characteristics, its behavior, and where you might be likely to see it on your Ecuador trip.
The Andean condor is a massive bird, and it can weigh up to 33 pounds (15kg). Its body size is approximately 4 feet (1.21 meters) when fully grown, and the wingspan can reach 10.5 feet (3.2 meters. The condor is largely a black color. Males of the species have a white ring around their necks which looks like a collar. They also have some white markings on their wings, and their heads are bald. They look like big vultures, which is not a surprise considering that they are in the same family of birds.
One interesting characteristic of the Andean condor is that you will generally not observe it flapping its wings. Instead these graceful birds tend to soar high on the thermals. This means that you might very well see a condor very far above you in the sky but not be able to tell what it is because it is so high up in the sky.
For food, the condor is a scavenger, as it is part of the vulture family. They look out for carrion on the ground to eat. For example, they might feast on a dead sheep or cow that they spot in a field, or sometimes llamas or deer. They also sometimes eat alpacas, guanacos and armadillos. In this regard they play an important role in cleaning up waste. When they live at the coast they will feed on fish or larger creatures such as dead seals. The bird will travel for more than 120 miles a day (200 kilometers) to find food.
The Andean condor does not become ready to breed until the creature is 5 or 6 years old. Once it does mate, it sticks with its partner for the rest of its life – and the bird can live up until 50 years or more.
To attract a mate, the skin on the male’s neck will flush, and it will turn from being a red color to bright yellow instead. The male will then come up to the female, clicking his tongue and extending his wings. He may also hiss and cluck and hop and dance. Breeding is usually done at higher elevations, between 9,800 to 16,400 feet (3,000 to 5,000 meters).
The Andean condor is typically found in the mountainous regions of the Andes. It may also be found near the coast sometimes, and occasionally in deserts. In South America it can be found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. Unfortunately, human activity has narrowed the range of this bird.
Thinking about specific spots in Ecuador where you might see an Andean condor, one of the most likely places is near to the Antisana Volcano. This is not too far from Quito. Sometimes they can also be seen near Papallacta or at other spots in the highlands of Ecuador. They are occasionally spotted soaring in pairs high in the sky at the coast. However, there are not thought to be many Andean condors in the country, so seeing them in the wild can be quite challenging. In fact it is believed there are only 50 or so wild condors in Ecuador.
One way to be more certain of seeing a condor is to head to the Otavalo Condor Park, not far from the market town of Otavalo. While this is not quite the same as seeing these birds in the wild, it is still quite an amazing experience. Another option is to visit the Condor Huasi Project. This project is working to preserve the Andean condor, and it has been developed through a partnership between the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation, Hacienda Zuleta, the Ministry of the Environment and Quito’s Zoological Foundation, among others. There are a few condors at the project, and the aim is to rescue captured or sick condors, breed them and release their progeny back into the wild.
There is never any guarantee that you will see an Andean condor during your trip to Ecuador. However, we are Ecuador experts, and we know all the spots where you will be most likely to see them. Why not contact us today to organize your Ecuador highlands trip, and you might just see an Andean condor!