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Monday, 4 September 2017

THE SOARING BEAUTY OF CONDORS


COMMON NAME: California Condor
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Gymnogyps californianus
TYPE: Birds
DIET: Carnivores
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: Up to 60 years
SIZE: Body, 3.5 to 4.5 ft; wingspan, 9 to 10 ft
WEIGHT: 18 to 31 lbs
SIZE RELATIVE TO A 6-FT MAN:

CURRENT POPULATION TREND: Increasing  

ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA CONDOR
The California condor is the largest flying bird in North America. Their wings may stretch nearly 10 feet from tip to tip. When in flight, these huge birds glide on air currents to soar as high as a dizzying 15,000 feet.
Scavenging

Like other vultures, condors are scavengers that feast on the carcasses of large mammals, such as cattle and deer. When a big meal is available, the birds may gorge themselves so much that they must rest for several hours before flying again.
Population Decline

Condors were sacred birds to the Native Americans who lived in the open spaces of western America. Today, they are best known as the subjects of a famous captive breeding program that may save them from extinction.
After decades of decline, condors neared the point of extinction in the late 1970s, when only two or three dozen birds survived. No one is sure exactly what cause or causes contributed most to this decline. Many birds died from poison ingestion and illegal egg collection, and all felt the steady loss of the open lands over which they once soared. Fossil records also show that the birds occupied only a fraction of their former range when Europeans first reached America—perhaps because of the loss of the great prehistoric herds that formerly roamed the continent.
Conservation

California condors mature and reproduce slowly. They don't breed until they are between six and eight years old, and the female lays only one egg every two years. If that egg is removed, however, she will lay a second or a third. With this in mind, scientists began to collect eggs for captive incubation. They also captured wild birds for captive breeding and, when the wild population dropped below 10 individuals, all of the remaining wild condors were brought into captivity in 1987.Through the efforts of many organizations and individuals, reintroduction of California condors began in 1992. Though they are protected, mortality rates are still high from accidental death. Powerlines are a particular hazard for condors, and they fare better in areas where human population density is low.

COMMON NAME: Andean Condor
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Vultur gryphus
TYPE: Birds
DIET: Carnivores
SIZE: Body, 4 ft; wingspan, up to 10.5 ft
WEIGHT: Up to 33 lbs
SIZE RELATIVE TO A 6-FT MAN:

CURRENT POPULATION TREND: Decreasing  

ABOUT THE ANDEAN CONDOR
Andean condors are massive birds, among the largest in the world that are able to fly. Because they are so heavy (up to 33 pounds), even their enormous 10-foot wingspan needs some help to keep them aloft. For that reason, these birds prefer to live in windy areas where they can glide on air currents with little effort. Andean condors are found in mountainous regions, as their name suggests, but also live near coasts replete with ocean breezes and even deserts that feature strong thermal air currents.

Characteristics
These condors are mostly black, but males have a distinctive white “collar” around their necks and some white markings on their wings as well. Like their relatives, the California condors, Andean condors have bald heads.

Scavenging and Diet

Condors are vultures, so they keep their sharp eyes peeled for the carrion that makes up most of their diet. They prefer to feast on large animals, wild or domestic, and in picking the carcasses, they perform an important function as a natural clean-up crew. Along the coasts, condors will feed on dead marine animals like seals or fish. These birds do not have sharp predator's claws, but they will raid birds' nests for eggs or even young hatchlings.
Breeding and Population

These long-lived birds have survived over 75 years in captivity, but they reproduce slowly. A mating pair produces only a single offspring every other year, and both parents must care for their young for a full year.

The Andean condor is considered threatened but is in far better shape than its California cousin. Reintroduction programs are working to grow populations of these South American birds.
© Nationalgeographic.com


Simon & Garfunkel : El Condor Pasa (1970)