The Andean condor is considered a symbol of spirituality and strength for many Andean cultures, and has historically inhabited the territories of South America. In Ecuador it is considered the King of the Andes and the iconic symbol of our country. The Inca people called him “kuntur” which means messenger of the gods. In Ecuador since 1996 every July 7 is celebrated the “National Day of the Andean Condor”.
In the provinces of Pichincha, Napo, Imbabura, Carchi and Cotopaxi, the inhabitants of the areas that share habitat with the condor superstitiously attribute to the bird the death or illness of their livestock and poison it for the same reason. Its sporadic attacks on domestic livestock have contributed to a bad image and, as a result, there have been cases of illegal carrion poisoning and lead contamination due to hunting, which is why its natural population was drastically reduced in the 1970s and 1980s onwards.
The condor is also known by the names of Andean Condor, Vulture Condor or Andean Condor. It is currently the largest flying animal in the world, and at the same time it is the longest-lived bird, living up to 75 years. Besides being found in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, it is also found in countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Chile.
In particular this bird is very large, and has a body full of large black feathers, with gray and white on the tips. The front part of the body is light brown, and white under the head. Its head is very small, black with a yellow beak and the coloration of its head can change depending on the birds mood. It is a scavenger, feeding on dead animals, and for this reason it becomes an important link in the balance of the ecosystem, thus reducing the risk of diseases associated with the slow putrefaction of animals. With their strong and sharp beaks they are capable of tearing the hardest tissues of the animals but the first parts to be eaten are the softest parts such as the eyes, tongue and thighs.
The Andean condor is able to mate when it is between 5 and 6 years old. They are very selective when it comes to mating. Males make sounds and parade with their chests puffed out to get the attention of a female, she will decide whether to accept a male for mating or not. Once she has selected a mate, they will stay together for the rest of their lives. Females may lay one or two eggs at a time in February or early March, however, they only lay eggs every two years. The parents care for their young very well, they will bring them food until they are able to fly, around 6 months of age. The young will stay with its parents for 2 years and then fend for itself to survive.
The condor is considered a Critically Endangered species in the Red Book of Birds of Ecuador. According to the latest census, there are 50 condors in the wild and 18 in captivity. In the province of Imbabura, exactly in Otavalo, is located the Condor Park which contributes to the conservation of the Andean condor, birds of prey and promotes scientific research. In the park several educational activities are developed such as the protection and care of birds, with special emphasis on the illegal purchase of species and introduction into homes of animals that are not domestic, altering the environment and habitat of the species, training of raptors and rescue of birds of prey.
Over time several legends have been created about the condor, as it is one of the most important species in Ecuador, one of the most famous is the legend of the condor in love.
It is said that Pachacamac, God creator of the universe, created a sacred bird, the condor itself, whose function was to be the messenger between the spirits and humans. The condor flew carrying the news that united the sky with the earth, and in this task, he became lonely.
One day he saw a beautiful girl leading the sheep to graze on the moor and fell in love.
Wanting to look elegant, the condor stole the poncho of a shepherd who was sleeping, pretending to be a human.
He climbed the shepherdess on his wings, who, feeling the freedom of the skies, fell in love with the condor. They went together to the nest and the condor ended up turning the young woman into a condor. It is said that both fly together over the province of Cotopaxi.
The Andean condor has been an eternal witness of the events that have taken place in this highland located at 3,900 meters above sea level and is expected to continue flying around this impressive lagoon. While this beautiful love story between the shepherdess and her beloved condor is remembered through the music of joyful flutes and charangos.