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George: Male, hatch date estimated to be in 1952. Arrived at the Zoo on September 12, 1956.
Princess: Female, hatch date estimated to be in 1953. Arrived at the Zoo on June 22, 1955.
Outside the McNeil Avian Center
The Andean condor is the only species of new world vultures that are sexually dimorphic. The male has a very distinctive comb on the crown of his head that the female lacks. They also differ in eye color. Look closely and you’ll notice the female’s bright red eye. Like all vultures, condor’s heads are bare of feathers. This adaptation has at least 2 functions. The lack of feathers allows them to radiate heat away from the body which keeps the birds from overheating. The bald head also means they don’t have to worry about the condition of their feathers when they stick their heads inside the carcasses of animals to feed. The large, hooked beak is very sharp and well adapted for tearing up meat.
There is very little information on the longevity of Andean condors in the wild. In captivity, the typical Andean condor will live to 47 years of age. The longevity record of a captive hatched Andean condor is 64 ½ years.
Condors have extremely broad wings that are well adapted for soaring flight. They have among the largest wingspan of any bird, at times reaching almost 10 ft across. This allows them to travel over long distances in search of food. To conserve energy on these long flights, condors make good use of rising hot air currents called “thermals” to keep them aloft and reduce the need to flap their wings.
These monogamous birds raise only one offspring at a time. Laying one egg on a cliff ledge or shallow cave, both male and female share incubation duties. The chick will hatch out in about 60 days and be ready to fly after 6 months. Parental care can continue for a full year after hatching and pairs rarely breed every year.
Andean condors range from 40 to 50 inches in height with males somewhat larger than females.
Females are lighter than males, averaging about 22 lbs. Males weigh on average 29 lbs.
The Andean condor is a scavenger. In the wild these large birds of prey actively seek out and consume carrion. Their favorite is the carcass of deer and cattle. At the Zoo the birds are offered meat complete feeds as part of their base diet. The diet is formulated for birds of prey and contains all the nutrients including the vitamins and minerals the birds require. The base diet also includes large mice. For training and enrichment the keepers use a variety of whole prey such as chicken, rats and quail.
Throughout the Andes mountains, from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego.
On the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Andean condor is listed as Near Threatened.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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