The Andean Condor [vultur gryphus] – or Cóndor Andino in Spanish – is one of the largest flying birds on the planet, with an adult average wingspan of 10 to 11 feet (3.0 to 3.3 m) and weighing up to 33 lbs.
Not only is the Andean Condor a national symbol in numerous South American countries (such as Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Colombia) but it plays an important role in the folklore and mythology of most of these countries.
Sadly, it has become more of a symbol and less of a reality in the past few decades.
Soaring is undoubtedly the best word (and mental image) associated with this .. sadly .. near threatened giant of the Andean skies. The principal cause of becoming extinct is due to continuous habitat loss.
Recent studies estimate that the condor population in Ecuador is only between 20 to 50 in total. In 2009, Corporación Simbioe registered 27 Condors, while Proyecto Cóndor calculated a population of 50 throughout the country.
Andean Condors prefer open grasslands and alpine areas in high mountain regions of western South America. These condors will go to lowland deserts and coastlines to forage, but will rarely visit forested areas. It is not uncommon for them to travel 200km (120 miles) a day in search of carrion. Condors may only breed every other year because of the extended breeding season.
A number of projects and programs are trying to protect and repopulate this apparently dying species. If you are interested in doing your little part to save the Andean Condor, one such project is Condor Huasi Rehabilitation Project in the province of Imbabura.