Twenty Andean Condors reported poisoned in Chile, 2 die.

SANTIAGO, Chile — Twenty condors were apparently poisoned with insecticide in the Chilean Andes cordillera and two of the giant birds have died, Chilean officials confirm Monday 12/08/2013.

andean-condor

The Andean condor is considered endangered but is in far better shape than its California cousin. Less than a few thousand South American birds survive. Reintroduction programs are working to supplement that number.

Condors have wingspans of up to 10 feet (3 meters) and can glide on air currents for hours. But on Sunday they began crashing into the rocks high in the mountains near a   hydroelctric plant.

Chilean officials and volunteers rescued 17 that were foaming from the beak and were too frail to fly. Another sick condor and two dead ones were found Monday.

They were all taken to a veterinary clinic in the city of Los Andes, some 40 miles (70 kilometers) east of the capital, Santiago.

“The hypothesis is that they suffered organophosphate poisoning after they were exposed to insecticides used for agriculture,” veterinarian Eric Savard, who has been treating them, told The Associated Press.

The 18 survivors are recovering with an antidote, antibiotics and saline solution, Savard said. They will remain under intensive care for 10 days.

When the rescued birds gain strength, they will be taken to Santiago’s Metropolitan Zoo for further care and then released in the same place where they were found, Pablo Vergara, regional director of Chile’s agriculture and livestock service, told local media.

Vergara said two dead foxes and a dead cow were discovered in the same area. Officials have sent samples to a laboratory for testing. They say the vultures could have eaten poisoned meat or drunk water contaminated with insecticides.

The Andean condor is one of the largest flying birds in the world. Biologists estimate only a few thousand are in the wild.

Facts

Andean condors are massive birds, among the largest in the world that are able to fly. Because they are so heavy (up to 33 pounds/15 kilograms), even their enormous 10-foot (3-meter) wingspan needs some help to keep them aloft. For that reason, these birds prefer to live in windy areas where they can glide on air currents with little effort. Andean condors are found in mountainous regions, as their name suggests, but also live near coasts replete with ocean breezes and even deserts that feature strong thermal air currents.

These condors are mostly black, but males have a distinctive white “collar” around their necks and some white markings on their wings as well. Like their relatives, the California condors, Andean condors have bald heads.

Condors are vultures, so they keep their sharp eyes peeled for the carrion that makes up most of their diet. They prefer to feast on large animals, wild or domestic, and in picking the carcasses, they perform an important function as a natural clean-up crew. Along the coasts, condors will feed on dead marine animals like seals or fish. These birds do not have sharp predator’s claws, but they will raid birds’ nests for eggs or even young hatchlings.

These long-lived birds have survived over 75 years in captivity, but they reproduce slowly. A mating pair produces only a single offspring every other year, and both parents must care for their young for a full year.

Map

Map: Andean condor range

Andean Condor Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Carnivore
Size:
Body, 4 ft (1.2 m); wingspan, up to 10.5 ft (3.2 m)
Weight:
Up to 33 lbs (15 kg)
Protection status:
Endangered
Did you know?
The Andean condor has the largest wing area of any bird.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Andean condor compared with adult man

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