The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is a bird that features heavily in legends and myths, even though its majesty needs no exaggeration. The species is widespread along the Andes Mountain range, although vulnerable and declining today. They are the only species in their genus but placed in the same family as their critically endangered North American relative, the California Condor.
Andean Condors are the national bird of four South American countries, and their great size and unique looks make them a popular ‘bucket-list’ species for birdwatchers all over the world. So how big are Andean Condors, and how do they compare with some other avian heavyweights?
Andean Condors are the largest bird of prey in the world. Males grow larger than females, reaching weights of over thirty pounds (15kg) and attaining wingspans over ten feet (320 cm). These gigantic birds can be three times the weight of a Bald Eagle and have the wingspan of thirty hummingbirds.
It is relatively rare for male birds of prey to grow larger than their female counterparts, but male Andean Condors can weigh nearly twice as much as females. The average mass of each sex differs by about six pounds, and males also differ by having large skin wattles on the top of their heads.
Being so large has both benefits and downsides. On the one hand, these majestic birds can dominate other scavenging birds at large animal carcasses, but such a massive wingspan makes flapping flight awkward and tiring. That’s why Andean Condors are most at home along the highest mountain range in South America, where taking off and soaring is easy.
Would you like to know more about the size of Andean Condors? Read on to learn how big they get, the benefits of their size, and how they compare with other giant birds.
Andean Condors are the largest birds of prey in the world
Andean Condors have a wingspan of 8 feet 6 inches to 10 feet 6 inches (260 - 320 cm), with males being larger on average. Their wingspan is second only to the great Albatrosses from the Diomedea genus, although the wing area of the Andean Condor is larger.
The wingspan is not the only impressive Andean Condor measurement. Continue reading to learn how much these birds weigh.
Andean Condors have the second largest wingspan in the world
Andean Condors are among the world's heaviest flying birds, second only to some old-world Bustard species. Males are significantly bigger than females, although, with an average mass of over twenty pounds, there’s nothing small about female Andean Condors.
Andean Condor mass:
Andean Condors have relatively short, stubby talons. They have smaller claws than other birds of prey because they feed on carrion and do not need to catch and kill live animals.
Close up of an Andean Condor coming in to land
Andean Condors are magnificent birds, and their measurements on paper scarcely do them justice. Read on to learn how they compare with you and me.
Andean Condors measure up to 4 feet 3 inches (1.3m) from bill to tail, which is about the height of an average 8-year-old child in America. However, their wingspan is arguably their most impressive metric. Large specimens have a wingspan twice the average height of an adult woman.
Birds are remarkably light for their size, but Andean Condors have some real heft for an animal that spends so much time in the air. Large males can weigh over thirty pounds, which is the weight of a two-year-old toddler.
Large Andean Condor males can weight over thirty pounds
Andean Condors are scavengers, often feeding on the carcasses of large mammals like llamas. They are most at home in high, mountainous terrain, although they also forage around coastal areas for dead sea mammals, fish, and sharks.
Andean Condors feed on large animals, but they are not suited to lifting them. In fact, these weighty birds find it difficult enough to lift themselves, preferring to soar rather than flap.
They don’t have much grip strength either, and their feet are better suited to walking than grasping.
Despite being so large, Andean Condors lack the grip strength to take large animals, instead, they tend to scavenge
Andean Condors are true scavengers, specializing on large prey like llamas, deer, cattle, sheep, and even whales. These powerful birds might not kill their own prey, but they still require great strength to tear through the skin and flesh of large animals.
Andean Condors know where to look for a meal, but they also know to look for other scavengers like crows and Turkey Vultures that might lead them to a carcass. Condors use their great size to dominate the other scavengers at the food source and get their fill first.
These birds can soar on rising air currents for up to an hour at a time without flapping their wings. Gliding on those massive wings allows them to cover distances of over 100 miles (160km) while searching for a meal.
Close up of a male Andean Condor, spreading his wings
Andean Condors are arguably the world's largest flying bird. There are heavier species, and there are species with wider wingspans, but in a category for combined size, these vultures would take first prize.
Keep reading to learn where Andean Condors rank among the world's biggest birds.
Andean Condors are the largest birds of prey, even bigger than the incredible California Condor of North America. Although much smaller overall, large eagle species like the Golden Eagle have much longer talons than the condors for catching and killing live prey.
The title for largest wingspan goes to the Wandering and Royal Albatrosses of the Southern Hemisphere. These astonishing seabirds can measure an incredible 11 feet 6 inches (3.5m) between wingtips, although their narrow wings have a smaller surface area than the Andean Condor.
Andean Condors can weigh over 33 pounds (15 kg). This makes them similar in weight to America’s Trumpeter Swan but lighter than the Kori Bustard. These African ground birds are the heaviest flying species, with some males exceeding forty pounds (19 kg). Of course, none of these impressive species compare with the flightless African Ostrich, which can weigh over 300 pounds (136 kg).
Andean Condors stand about three feet tall (0.9m). While impressive, they are less than half the height of the Sarus Crane and just a third of a large male Ostrich.
Andean Condor perched in the Ecuadorian highlands
The Andean Condor is larger than its North American cousin, the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). California Condors have a wingspan of up to ten feet (3m), which is about six inches (15cm) less than the Andean Condor, and they weigh about six pounds (2.7kg) less on average.
Andean Condors stand about three feet (0.9m) tall when perched, although large specimens have a body length of over four feet (1.2m).
The Andean Condor is not the largest bird. That honor goes to the African Ostrich. However, it could be fair to say that Andean Condors are the largest flying land birds.
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