7-year study widens view of Andean Condors

The lead paper in the March 2022 issue of The Journal of Raptor Research presents a fresh understanding of the conservation priorities for the world’s largest bird of prey, the Andean Condor. In 2015, a team of 38 condor experts from throughout the bird’s South American range as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Peregrine Fund, and other U.S.-based groups began gathering information about the bird’s distribution, including where it roosts, nests, and feeds. The new paper, the culmination of their work, presents findings about:

– The condor’s historical range. A 1990 study estimated its historical range to include 2.36 million square km, but the new study expands the area by almost 37 percent, to 3.23 million square km. Argentina accounts for 43 percent of the new range and Chile 23 percent, while Venezuela, the northernmost country in the range, holds less than 1 percent.

Birders’ reports to eBird. Known distribution points for the condor expanded significantly with more than 8,200 distribution points that birders reported up to May 2016 in eBird, the online bird-record project.

– Extirpated areas. The condor is no longer found in about 7 percent of its historical range. The areas are scattered from Colombia to southeastern Argentina.

– Conservation units. The experts in the group identified 31 Andean Condor Conservation Units — areas that should be preserved to meet the needs of the wide-ranging bird. Some of the areas are adjacent to each other in neighboring countries, allowing them to be combined and the total reduced to 21 units. They range in size from 837 square km to more than 298,000 square km. A few of them have no formal protections while up to 57.8 percent of others have protections in place.

The authors say standardized census methods should be implemented throughout the bird’s range and that greater international cooperation is needed “as Andean Condors do not recognize borders and require conservation across various jurisdictions.”

This article was published in “Birding Briefs” in the May/June 2022 issue of BirdWatching.

Soaring Andean Condors rarely flap their wings

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