BirdLife species factsheet for Andean Condor
Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is a highly iconic species occurring along the length of the Andes in South America. It inhabits open grassland and mountainous regions up to 5,000 m, but also mid-elevation forests and lowland deserts and coastlines (Houston 1994, Parker et al. 1996, Houston et al. 2020). It feeds mainly on carcasses of large-and medium-sized mammals, including guanacos, livestock or marine mammals (Houston et al. 2020).
The species is rare and declining, particularly in the north of its range where it has disappeared from parts of Venezuela and Colombia (Houston et al. 2020, Wallace et al. 2020). The global population has been estimated at 6,700 mature individuals; however, recent information suggests that this is a maximum estimate (R. Wallace in litt. 2020). The northern part of the range holds up to 300 individuals in Colombia, Ecuador and possibly Venezuela (Renjifo et al. 2016, Vargas et al. 2018, R. Wallace in litt. 2020). Peru holds a minimum of 150-250 individuals (Piana and Angulo 2015) and Bolivia holds around 1,400 individuals (Méndez et al. 2019). Chile and Argentina hold up to 2,000 individuals each (Wallace et al. 2020).
Andean Condor is facing a variety of threats, which are thought to drive a rapid population decline. Throughout its range, the species is directly prosecuted for pest control owing to occasional attacks on livestock (Houston et al. 1994). It is furthermore hunted for illegal use in folkloric events and trade (Williams et al. 2011, Piana 2019). Also, illegal poisoning of carcasses for persecution of mammalian predators as well as lead poisoning are severely impacting the species (e. g., Lambertucci et al. 2011, Pavez and Estades 2016, Wiemeyer et al. 2017, Alarcón and Lambertucci 2018, Estrada Pacheco et al. 2020). Further threats include competition for carcasses and collisions with power lines (Carrete et al. 2010, S. Lambertucci in litt. 2020).
Andean Condor is currently listed as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criteria A2de+3de+4de; C2a(i) (BirdLife International 2020). However, new information regarding the population size and trend suggest that the species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, it will be re-assessed against all criteria:
Criterion A – The species is in rapid decline caused by a variety of threats, including direct persecution by humans, lead poisoning, and deterioration of habitat quality through deliberate poisoning of carcasses. Even though the rate of decline has not been quantified across the entire range, it is suspected to fall in the band 30-49% over three generations (86.7 years; Bird et al. 2020)*. Andean Condor therefore qualifies for listing as Vulnerable under Criterion A4cde.
Criterion B – The species’s range is too large to warrant listing as threatened under Criterion B (Extent of Occurrence = 8,520,000 km2) and thus Andean Condor qualifies as Least Concern under this criterion.
Criterion C – The global population is thought to number up to 6,700 mature individuals. This meets the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion C; however in order to be listed under this criterion further conditions must be fulfilled.
From the combined impacts of hunting and declines in habitat quality, it is inferred that the population is in decline. Moreover, despite being a wide-ranging species that covers large distances, it shows substantial genetic structuring, with dispersal being modulated by topographic features (Padró et al. 2018). We can therefore tentatively assume that the species forms several subpopulations, which contain less than 1,000 mature individuals each, but this requires confirmation. Unless new information becomes available, the species may therefore be listed as Vulnerable under Criterion C2a(i).
Criterion D – The population size and range are too large to warrant listing as threatened under Criterion D and thus Andean Condor qualifies as Least Concern under this criterion.
Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.
Therefore, it is suggested that Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) be listed as Vulnerable under Criteria A4cde; C2a(i). We welcome any comments on the proposed listing.
Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.
*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).
An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.
Alarcon, P. A. E.; Lambertucci, S. A. 2018. Pesticides thwart condor conservation. Science 360: 612.
Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Şekercioğlu, Ç. H.; Butchart, S. H. 2020. Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.
BirdLife International. 2020. Species factsheet: Vultur gryphus. http://www.birdlife.org (Accessed 07 April 2020).
Carrete, M.; Lambertucci, S. A.; Speziale, K.; Ceballos, O.; Travaini, A.; Delibes, M.; Hiraldo, F.; Donázar, J. A. 2010. Winners and losers in human-made habitats: interspecific competition outcomes in two Neotropical vultures. Animal Conservation 13: 390–398.
Estrada Pacheco, R.; Jácome, N.L.; Astore, V.; Borghi, C. E.; Piña, C. I. 2020. Pesticides: The most threat to the conservation of the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus). Biological Conservation 242: 108418.
Houston, D. C. 1994. Cathartidae (New World Vultures). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 24-41. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Houston, D.; Kirwan, G. M.; Christie, D. A.; Sharpe, C. J. 2020. Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), version 1.0. In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D. A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Birds of the World. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.andcon1.01 (Accessed 07 April 2020).
Lambertucci, S. A.; Donázar, J. A.; Delgado Huertas, A.; Jiménez, B.; Sáez, M.; Sanchez-Zapata, J. A.; Hiraldo, F. 2011. Widening the problem of lead poisoning to a South-American top scavenger: Lead concentrations in feathers of wild Andean Condors. Biological Conservation 144: 1464-1471.
Méndez, D. R.; Marsden, S.; Lloyd, H. 2019. Assessing population size and structure for Andean Condor Vultur gryphus in Bolivia using a photographic ‘capture‐recapture’ method. Ibis 161: 867-877.
Padró, J.; Lambertucci, S. A.; Perrig, P. L.; Pauli, J. N. 2018. Evidence of genetic structure in a wide-rangeing and highly mobile soaring scavenger, the Andean Condor. Diversity and Distributions 24(11): 1534-1544.
Parker, T.A., Stotz, D.F. and Fitzpatrick, J.W. 1996. Ecological and distributional databases. In: Stotz, D.F., Fitzpatrick, J.W., Parker, T.A. and Moskovits, D.K. (eds.), Neotropical bird ecology and conservation, pp. 113-436. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Pavez, E. F.; Estades, C. F. 2016. Causes of admission to a rehabilitation center for Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) in Chile. Journal of Raptor Research 50: 23-32.
Piana, R. P. 2019. Human-caused and Yawar Fiesta-derived mortality of Andean Condors (Vultur gryphus) in Peru. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 131(4): 833-838.
Piana, R. P.; Angulo, F. 2015. Identificación y estimación preliminar del número de individuos de Cóndor Andino (Vultur gryphus) en las Áreas Prioritarias para su Conservacion en Perú. Boletín de la Union de Ornitólogos del Perú (UNOP): 10:9-16.
Renjifo, L. M.; Amaya-Villarreal, A. M.; Burbano-Girón, J.; Velásquez-Tibatá, J. 2016. Libro Rojo de Aves de Colombia, Vol. II: ecosistemas abiertos, secos, insulares, acuáticos continentales, marinos, tierras altas del Darién y Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta y bosques húmedos del centro, norte y oriente del país. Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana e Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, Bogotá, Colombia.
Vargas, H.; Narváez F.; Naveda-Rodríguez, A.; Carrasco, L.; Kohn, S.; Utreras, V.; Zapata-Ríos, G; Ron, K. 2018. Segundo Censo Nacional del Cóndor Andino en Ecuador. Informe Técnico. Ministerio del Ambiente, The Peregrine Fund, Grupo Nacional de Trabajo del Cóndor Andino en Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador.
Wallace, R. B.; Reinaga, A.; Piland, N.; Piana, R.; Vargas, H.; Zegarra, R-E.; Alarcón, P.; Alvarado, S.; Álvarez, J.; Angulo, F.; Astore, V.; Ciri, F.; Cisneros, J.; Cóndor, C.; Escobar, V.; Funes, M.; Gálvez-Durand, J.; Gargiulo, C.; Gordillo, S.; Heredia, J.; Kohn, S.; Kusch, A.; Lambertucci, S.; Méndez, D.; Morales, R.; More, A.; Naveda-Rodríguez, A.; Oehler, D.; Ortega, A.; Ospina, O.; Otero, J-A.; Sáenz-Jiménez, F.; Silva, C.; Vento, R.; Wiemeyer, G. M.; Zapata-Ríos, G.; Zurita, L. 2020. Saving the Symbol of the Andes: A Range Wide Conservation Priority Setting Exercise for the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus). Wildlife Conservation Society, La Paz, Bolivia.
Wiemeyer, G. M.; Pérez, M. A.; Torres Bianchini, L.; Sampietro, L.; Bravo, G. F.; Jácome, N. L.; Astore, V.; Lambertucci, S. A. 2017. Repeated conservation threats across the Americas: High levels of blood and bone lead in the Andean Condor widen the problem to a continental scale. Environmental Pollution 220: 672-679.
Williams, R. S. R.; Jara, J. L.; Matsufuiji, D.; Plenge, A. 2011. Trade in Andean Condor Vultur gryphus feathers and body parts in the city of Cusco and the Sacred Valley, Cusco region, Peru. Vulture News 61: 16-26.