The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is a species of South American bird in the New World vulture family Cathartidae and is the only member of the genus Vultur. Found in the Andes mountains and adjacent Pacific coasts of western South America, the Andean Condor has a wingspan of up to 3.2 m/10.5 ft but is exceeded by the Wandering Albatross (at up to 3.6 m/12 ft) the Southern Royal Albatross the Dalmatian and the Great White Pelicans (at reportedly up to 3.5 m/11.6 ft). It is a large black vulture with a ruff of white feathers surrounding the base of the neck and, especially in the male, large white patches on the wings. The head and neck are nearly featherless, and are a dull red color, which may flush and therefore change color in response to the bird's emotional state. In the male, there is a wattle on the neck and a large, dark red comb or caruncle on the crown of the head. Unlike most birds of prey, the male is larger than the female. The condor is primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion. It prefers large carcasses, such as those of deer or cattle. It reaches sexual maturity at five or six years of age and nests at elevations of up to 5,000 m (16,000 ft), generally on inaccessible rock ledges. One or two eggs are usually laid. It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 100 years old in captivity. The Andean Condor is a national symbol of Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador, and plays an important role in the folklore and mythology of the Andean regions. The Andean Condor is considered near threatened by the IUCN. It is threatened by habitat loss and by secondary poisoning from carcasses killed by hunters. Captive breeding programs have been instituted in several countries.
The Andean Condor was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae and retains its original binomial name of Vultur gryphus. The Andean Condor is sometimes called the Argentinean Condor, Bolivian Condor, Chilean Condor, Colombian Condor, Ecuadorian Condor, or Peruvian Condor after one of the nations to which it is native. The generic term Vultur is directly taken from the Latin vultur or voltur, which means "vulture". Its specific epithet is derived from a variant of the Greek word γρυπός (grupós, "hook-nosed"). The word condor itself is derived from the Quechua kuntur. The exact taxonomic placement of the Andean Condor and the remaining six species of New World Vultures remains unclear. Though both are similar in appearance and have similar ecological roles, the New World and Old World Vultures evolved from different ancestors in different parts of the world and are not closely related. Just how different the two families are is currently under debate, with some earlier authorities suggesting that the New World vultures are more closely related to storks. More recent authorities maintain their overall position in the order Falconiformes along with the Old World Vultures or place them in their own order, Cathartiformes. The South American Classification Committee has removed the New World Vultures from Ciconiiformes and instead described them as incertae sedis, but notes that a move to Falconiformes or Cathartiformes is possible. The Andean Condor is the only accepted living species of its genus, Vultur. Unlike the California Condor, which is known from extensive fossil remains and some additional ones of congeners, the fossil record of the Andean Condor recovered to date is scant. Presumed Plio-Pleistocene species of South American condors were later recognized to be not different from the present species, although one known only from a few rather small bones found in a Pliocene deposit of Tarija Department, Bolivia, may have been a smaller palaeosubspecies, V. gryphus patruus.
The Andean Condor is considered near threatened by the IUCN. It was first placed on the United States Endangered Species list in 1970, a status which is assigned to an animal that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Threats to its population include loss of habitat needed for foraging, secondary poisoning from animals killed by hunters and persecution. It is threatened mainly in the northern area of its range, and is extremely rare in Venezuela and Colombia, where it has undergone considerable declines in recent years. Because it is adapted to very low mortality and has correspondingly low reproductive rates, it is extremely vulnerable to human persecution, most of which stems from the fact that it is perceived as a threat by farmers due to alleged attacks on livestock. Education programs have been implemented by conservationists to dispel this misconception. Reintroduction programs using captive-bred Andean Condors, which release birds hatched in North American zoos into the wild to bolster populations, have been introduced in Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia. The first captive-bred Andean Condors were released into the wild in 1989. When raising condors, human contact is minimal; chicks are fed with glove puppets which resemble adult Andean Condors in order to prevent the chicks from imprinting on humans, which would endanger them upon release as they would not be wary of humans. The condors are kept in aviaries for three months prior to release, where they acclimatize to an environment similar to that which they will be released in. Released condors are tracked by satellite in order to observe their movements and to monitor whether they are still alive. In response to the capture of all the wild individuals of the California Condor, in 1988 the US Fish and Wildlife Service began a reintroduction experiment involving the release of captive Andean Condors into the wild in California. Only females were released to eliminate the possibility of accidentally introducing a South American species into the United States. The experiment was a success, and all the Andean Condors were recaptured and re-released in South America before the reintroduction of the California Condors took place.