I saw the coolest bird today! It’s called the Andean Condor, and it’s huge! We were walking in the Andes and saw some birds circling around. I just figured they were vultures because I could see the animal they were eyeballing off in the distance. But as we got closer, someone pointed out that they were condors. I can’t tell one bird from another, so I was wondering how someone could look at that bird and tell it’s a condor. Plus, a condor is in the vulture family, so what’s the difference, right? Wrong!

andean-condor-flying

I looked at the thing for a long time. I even snapped a couple pictures and zoomed in to the max so I could see it better. In the first picture the bird was fully stretched out. Its wings had to have at least a ten-foot span. Stretch a condor out along side any famous basketball player and the player would be short compared to this long bird. I also noticed there were white stripes along the back side of the feathers. I really couldn’t get over how long the wings were, but what truly baffled me was that the torso wasn’t that big. How in the world could a bird with such long wings have such a small torso without losing its balance?

The condor was seated on a high ledge in the second picture. For a minute it looked like he had one of those U-shaped airplane pillows around his neck because he had white feathers that stopped just short of going all the way around his neck to the front. At this point I realized we were standing a little less than 10,000 feet above sea level, so he had to be at about 10,500 feet above sea level. I would need some of those extra feathers too if I lived up here year-round. It gets cold! And if you look really hard at the head, the condor looks like a red-eyed, old bald guy.

andean-condor

Even though these birds are scavengers and fly almost 120 miles a day to find food, I think there is a sweet side to them. Once they find a mate, usually at five or six years old, they mate for life. Some condors live to be fifty or even 100 years old. And when they are nesting, after the female lays the egg, both the male and the female take turns incubating the egg. Isn’t that sweet?

I don’t know how these birds could be on the endangered species list. Who in their right mind would want to come way up here and hurt these birds? As scavengers, they help keep things clean, they mate for life, and they are really cool to watch. Would you believe that in the twenty minutes I spent watching these birds that they only flapped their wings twice? They soar above so effortlessly. I found it relaxing to watch them. I think they’re the most beautiful ugly creatures on Earth.

Activities:

 

  1. Describe the Andean Condor. How big is it?
  2. Read more about the Andean Condor here: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/andean-condor/ What do you find most impressive about this bird?
  3. What would you suggest to protect the Andean Condor and other endangered species?