CONDOR (Sarcorhamphus gryphus), an American vulture, and almost the largest of existing birds of flight, although by no means attaining the dimensions attributed to it by early writers. It usually measures about 4 ft. from the point of the beak to the extremity of the tail, and 9 ft. between the tips of its wings, while it is probable that the expanse of wing never exceeds 12 ft. The head and neck are destitute of feathers, and the former, which is much flattened above, is in the male crowned with a caruncle or comb, while the skin of the latter in the same sex lies in folds, forming a wattle. The adult plumage is of a uniform black, with the exception of a frill of white feathers nearly surrounding the base of the neck, and certain wing feathers which, especially in the male, have large patches of white. The middle toe is greatly elongated, and the hinder one but slightly developed, while the talons of all the toes are comparatively straight and blunt, and are thus of little use as organs of prehension. The female, contrary to the usual rule among birds of prey, is smaller than the male.
The condor is a native of South America, where it is confined to the region of the Andes, from the Straits of Magellan to 4° north latitude, - the largest examples, it is said, being found about the volcano of Cayambi, situated on the equator. It is often seen on the shores of the Pacific, especially during the rainy season, but its favourite haunts for roosting and breeding are at elevations of 10,000 to 16,000 ft. There, during the months of February and March, on inaccessible ledges of rock, it deposits two white eggs, from 3 to 4 in. in length, its nest consisting merely of a few sticks placed around the eggs. The period of incubation lasts for seven weeks, and the young are covered with a whitish down until almost as large as their parents. They are unable to fly till nearly two years old, and continue for a considerable time after taking wing to roost and hunt with their parents. The white ruff on the neck, and the similarly coloured feathers of the wing, do not appear until the completion of the first moulting. By preference the condor feeds on carrion, but it does not hesitate to attack sheep, goats and deer, and for this reason it is hunted down by the shepherds, who, it is said, train their dogs to look up and bark at the condors as they fly overhead. They are exceedingly voracious, a single condor of moderate size having been known, according to Orton, to devour a calf, a sheep and a dog in a single week. When thus gorged with food, they are exceedingly stupid, and may then be readily caught. For this purpose a horse or mule is killed, and the carcase surrounded with palisades to which the condors are soon attracted by the prospect of food, for the weight of evidence seems to favour the opinion that those vultures owe their knowledge of the presence of carrion more to sight than to scent. Having feasted themselves to excess, they are set upon by the hunters with sticks, and being unable, owing to the want of space within the pen, to take the run without which they are unable to rise on wing, they are readily killed or captured. They sleep during the greater part of the day, searching for food in the clearer light of morning and evening. They are remarkably heavy sleepers, and are readily captured by the inhabitants ascending the trees on which they roost, and noosing them before they awaken. Great numbers of condors are thus taken alive, and these, in certain districts, are employed in a variety of bull-fighting. They are exceedingly tenacious of life, and can exist, it is said, without food for over forty days. Although the favourite haunts of the condor are at the level of perpetual snow, yet it rises to a much greater height, Humboldt having observed it flying over Chimborazo at a height of over 23,000 ft. On wing the movements of the condor, as it wheels in majestic circles, are remarkably graceful. The birds flap their wings on rising from the ground, but after attaining a moderate elevation they seem to sail on the air, Charles Darwin having watched them for half an hour without once observing a flap of their wings.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)