The Andean condor’s majestic and mystical presence has been a part of South American indigenous lore and culture since their beginnings. Representations of Andean condors can be seen in indigenous art dating back to 2500 B.C., and their significance to Andean Cultures can be seen to this day as nations such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and Colombia have chosen to honor the condor as their national bird.
Their immense wingspan is one of the attributes that makes the condor so noticeable and so noteworthy. Andean condors have the longest wingspan of any raptor, a necessary trait that allows them to lift their heavy bodies into the air. With their hefty weight of up to 33 pounds, even their wingspan of up to 10-feet can struggle to keep them off the ground. For this reason, Andean condors enjoy the windy passages of the Andes or breezy coastal regions where the stronger air currents help sustain their flight.
The Andean condor also holds some distinction as the only New World vulture that features sexual dimorphism, a term that means the condors show a visible difference in physical characteristics and size between males and females. The male Andean condors are larger and they also feature an individualized dark-red comb that crowns their heads. These combs are so distinctive scientists use them to distinguish between multiple birds. However, perhaps their most recognizable feature is the fluffy white ruff that rings their necks.
Andean condors are an endangered species, and their demise is often intentional. Although they suffer from habitat degradation like many animals, they also are deliberately killed by local populations who find them pesky or for long-standing indigenous rituals that require their sacrifice. As an endangered species that only produces one offspring every other year, the Andean condor depends upon breeding programs in captivity to ensure their survival.
Airplane wings are designed to mimic the nature of condor’s wings. The wings of Andean condors are pointed up at the tips, a feature that allows them to soar with reduced drag. Airplane wings share this feature for the same purpose.