I’m going to be honest with you, the Andean condor deserves its own post. I could talk to you non-stop about the gorgeous surroundings of Colca Canyon and add one or two photos of the condors but I’m smitten. These birds are so beautiful, no wait actually, they’re pretty ugly… Let’s call them majestic. I actually had a proper heart flutter when I saw them soaring through the sky. As with all wildlife, it’s not a given that I would be able to spot them on this location. Once again, I was incredibly lucky to see them (twice!!) in large numbers.
The Majestic Andean Condor
What’s an Andean condor? It’s the largest flying bird in the world, it has a maximum wingspan of 3.3 m.
It has a very beautiful and easy to spot plumage. I’m usually not very good at identifying animals but this large black bird has a ruff of white & black feathers which makes it easy to distinguish. Especially as they soar through the sky. The young ones are brown.
They are one of the world’s longest-living birds, with a lifespan of over 70 years. What I like most are the beautiful legends surrounding them. The one I love is the legend that says that when the bird’s strength wanes it flies to the highest mountain peak, folds its wings, pulls in its feet and lets itself fall down to the depths of the canyons where it ends its days. No one has seen this happen, but how magically tragic does this story sound?
The condor is primarily a scavenger. It prefers to eat large carcasses, such as those of cattle. However, when they soar above you it’s hard to feel like they won’t opt to eat you instead.
The nests are typically found up to 5,000 m, generally on inaccessible rock ledges. They prefer canyons, because of the air pressure. These birds mainly soar and canyons are perfect for this. You don’t see them flap their wings. I’ve seen a few fly away from a cliff & they just spread their wings and drop themselves waiting for the wind to catch on their wings.
The fact that they live in canyons makes the Colca Canyon in Peru a perfect place for them to live.
Cruz del Condor
The Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world, measuring 3,270m depth. A perfect place for the condor to soar, and a perfect place for tourists to spot them.
Cruz del Condor’s mountains, which are normally covered in snow, form a spectacular backdrop for the condors, which glide by on the thermals rising from the canyon.
It is said that the best time of the day to spot the animals is in the morning. That’s also when it’s busiest. We decided to stop there when we drove by in the afternoon. Our guide told us it would be highly unlikely we would see the condor. However, we spotted many and were all by ourselves. We went back in the morning when we were certainly not alone, but again we spotted many condors. The area to view them is rather large so it’s easy for crowds to scatter. When condors were sitting on this outcrop though it became quite busy.
If you’re near Arequipa and you’re planning to visit either Cusco or Puno, do yourself a favour and make a little detour to the Colca Canyon. My next post will be dedicated to the area & will touch upon a few hikes you can do there as well. I think the condors alone are reason enough to visit.
P.s. I feel bad about the other birds trying to out do the condors. We had many little birds posing for us, trying to get us to aim our cameras at them. I don’t think many people saw them, but I did. My tip is to remain aware of your surroundings, not just to see the pretty birds but also to see pickpockets walking through the crowds, because I actually saw one of them as well.