Condor is the name for two species of New World vultures, each in a monotypic genus. They are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere.
Condors are part of the family Cathartidae, whereas the 15 species of Old World vultures are in the family Accipitridae, that also includes falcons, hawks, and eagles. The New World and Old World vultures evolved from different ancestors. However, they both are carrion-eaters and have distinctive bare heads.
See Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy for an alternative classification. You can see the condor on the coastline on your way to Carmel or Pebble beach.
Both condors are very large broad-winged soaring birds, the Andean Condor being 5 cm shorter (beak to tail) on average than the northern species, but larger in wingspan. California Condors are the largest flying land birds in North America.
The adult plumage is uniformly black, with the exception of a frill of white feathers nearly surrounding the base of the neck and are meticulously kept clean by the bird. As an adaptation for hygiene, the condor's head and neck have few feathers, which exposes the skin to the sterilizing effects of dehydration and solar ultraviolet light at high altitudes. The head is much flattened above. In the male it is crowned with a caruncle or comb, while the skin of the neck in the male lies in folds, forming a wattle. The skin of the head and neck is capable of flushing noticeably in response to emotional state, which serves to communicate between individuals.
The middle toe is greatly elongated, and the hinder one but slightly developed, while the talons of all the toes are comparatively straight and blunt. The feet are thus more adapted to walking as in their relatives the storks, and of little use as weapons or organs of prehension as in birds of prey and Old World vultures. The female, contrary to the usual rule among birds of prey, is smaller than the male.
Although it is on average about five cm shorter from beak to tail than the California Condor, the Andean Condor is larger in wingspan, which ranges from 274 to 310 cm (8.99 to 10.2 ft). It is also heavier, reaching up to 11 to 15 kg (24 to 33 lb) for males and 7.5 to 11 kg (17 to 24 lb) for females. Overall length can range from 117 to 135 cm (46 to 53 in) Measurements are usually taken from specimens reared in captivity.
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