The Condors by the London Reading Book

Letter C.

Condors are found throughout the whole range of the Cordilleras, along the south-west coast of South America, from the Straits of Magellan to the Rio Negro. Their habitations are almost invariably on overhanging ledges of high and perpendicular cliffs, where they both sleep and breed, sometimes in pairs, but frequently in colonies of twenty or thirty together. They make no nest, but lay two large white eggs on the bare rock. The young ones cannot use their wings for flight until many months after they are hatched, being covered, during that time, with only a blackish down, like that of a gosling. They remain on the cliff where they were hatched long after having acquired the full power of flight, roosting and hunting in company with the parent birds. Their food consists of the carcases of guanacoes, deer, cattle, and other animals.

The condors may oftentimes be seen at a great height, soaring over a certain spot in the most graceful spires and circles. Besides feeding on carrion, the condors will frequently attack young goats and lambs. Hence, the shepherd dogs are trained, the moment the enemy passes over, to run out, and, looking upwards, to bark violently. The people of Chili destroy and catch great numbers. Two methods are used: one is to place a carcase within an inclosure of sticks on a level piece of ground; and when the condors are gorged, to gallop up on horseback to the entrance, and thus inclose them; for when this bird has not space to run, it cannot give its body sufficient momentum to rise from the ground. The second method is to mark the trees in which, frequently to the number of five or six together, they roost, and then at night to climb up and noose them. They are such heavy sleepers that this is by no means a difficult task.

The condor, like all the vulture tribe, discovers his food from a great distance; the body of an animal is frequently surrounded by a dozen or more of them, almost as soon as it has dropped dead, although five minutes before there was not a single bird in view. Whether this power is to be attributed to the keenness of his olfactory or his visual organs, is a matter still in dispute; although it is believed, from a minute observation of its habits in confinement, to be rather owing to its quickness of sight.

Condors.