|Travel Ecuador : Bird watching : Birds :|
On the slopes of the huge Antisana Volcano, trekking trips in the thin air high above the treeline may yield views of one of the most spectacular and emblematic bird species of the Andes; the Andean Condor. This massive vulture has been a part of high Andean culture for thousands of years and still plays an important role in the psyche of Andean countries. The importance of this largest of flying birds in the western hemisphere to Andean countries is demonstrated by its representation on the coat of arms of several countries, Ecuador included.
By virtue of its immense size (a three meter wingspan), the Andean Condor is unmistakable. While young birds are mostly dark, the adults have white edging to the feathers of the wings that shows up as a large white patch that can be seen from a distance on flying birds. Adults also have a white collar of feathers and bare-skinned heads, the head of the male sporting a wattle. Other, more common vulture species of lower elevations can also look very large in flight but don’t occur with the Andean Condor.
Behavior in Ecuador
The Andean Condor effortlessly soars on its huge, broad wings in search of carrion. Its immense wings carry it long distances in the high cordillera as it searches for dead deer, and livestock. This propensity to feed on dead livestock has given some herders the erroneous belief that the Condor preys upon their sheep or cattle; a belief that has tragically led to the persecution of this majestic species. Nevertheless, the Andean Condor is protected in Ecuador and access is restricted to its nest sites. These are placed on cliffs at high elevations, only one egg laid every few years by these birds that can live to be fifty years old.
Habitat and distribution in Ecuador
The Andean Condor is a species of the highest mountains in Ecuador. It prefers the harsh, high altitude habitats above the treeline such as the paramos and other tundra-like areas of the Antisana Reserve, Cajas National Park, and the Papallacta Pass.