Text by Nicole Bouglouan


Didier Buysse
Vision d’Oiseaux

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HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 2 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334156

Observations on the behaviour of the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)

Social structure of Andean Condor roosts: influence of sex, age, and season

Interesting facts about Andean condors

The Birds of North America online

Animal Diversity Web (University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)

Related pages:

See here the card of the Andean Condor

The Andean Condor's flight

Page Family Cathartidae


Home page

Summary Observation  Reports


Andean Condor social behaviour

Observation report


The Andean Condor lives in South America, in the Andean mountains from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego.
This massive bird can be seen soaring over long distances, often flying low above the ground.

This species shows conspicuous white panels on the upperwing, and these pale patches are used to make easier the visual contact between individuals. Both males and females have bare skin on head and neck, but the male is able to modify the colour of these areas from dull red to bright yellow. This behaviour indicates some mood’s changes, and is used by the birds to communicate among the groups. However, the males also use it during the courtship displays.

The Andean Condor is reported perching on cliff ledges used as roosting sites where numerous condors may gather at the same time. These sites are often between 3,000 and 5,000 metres of elevation, and allow these large birds to land and take-off without major wing-flapping effort.  

These roosting sites are suspected to act as “information exchange” locations, in order to increase their foraging efficiency, because these birds largely depend on a dispersed food supply.
The nest-sites are also located high in mountains and usually on rocky ledges, close to the roosts or not.   

The adults of a pair care for their young during 1-2 years. For this reason, adults of both sexes and juvenile or immature birds can be seen close to each other on the rocky ledges. They often roost together during this period, and the young hunt with their parents, until the adults start a new breeding cycle.   

Adult male

and young female

Social interactions occur, and there is a dominance hierarchy among groups. These large groups of condors show well-developed social structure with competition to determine a “pecking order” thanks to body language, competitive play behaviour and vocalizations. However, condors have limited repertoire of sounds including grunt, wheeze or hiss.

Males are dominating over females, and both adults are dominating over juvenile, immature and subadult birds. The mature males are usually at the top of the hierarchy, while immature males are mostly near the bottom.          

Immature male

Some well-exposed roosting sites may be occupied by dominant individuals. These sites are usually well-exposed to the sun and protected from the wind.

Adult male

and young female

The Andean Condor is an important part of the Andean culture such as folklore and mythology. It is the National Symbol of several Andean countries, in which it is featured in the coats of arms. It is the symbol of the Andean mountains.   

Adult female