The country of Chile has such diverse habitats, from northern Chile where there are dry deserts that are warm all year around to the southern coast where winter temps can dip below freezing. Because Chile is a long skinny country it covers a broad range of climates. You can find penguins in southern Chile, and llamas, alpacas and flamingos in northern Chile. With such a variety of wildlife in the country you might think it would be hard to agree on a national animal or national bird. But when you look at the country’s roots you will see how Chile decided on their national bird. Read on to find out all about the national bird of Chile.
Who Lives in Chile?
The Inca’s ruled in the northern part of Chile and the native Mapuche lived in the southern area. Spain took over in the 1600’s then Chile became an independent country in 1810. The people of Chile today are a mix of early European Settlers that came to Chile in the late 1800’s as well as native Chileans. Much of the population of Chile, around 40%, live in and around the capitol of Santiago. Spanish is the official language and football/soccer is the most popular sport. The population of Chile is 17,925,262 and is steadily rising.
What Animals Live in Chile?
Animals that live in Chile are some of the same animals that live in the United States like fox, deer, cougars and otters, but they also have some animals that are country specific or only found in South America. Huemel are South Andean deer that is considered the national animal of Chile, colocolo opossum are a kind of marsupial and guanacos are related to llamas. At Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia you might see a puma, guanaco or Andean condor. There are also wildlife watching trips you can take to see penguins, dolphins, sea lions and whales.
What is the National Bird of Chile?
The national bird of Chile is the Andean condor. Choosing the condor dates back to the country’s Inca roots with the Inca’s believing that the condor represented power and health. Some legends suggested that the condor was responsible for making the sun rise each morning. The Andean condor is a respected bird by the people of Chile and is prominently displayed on the countries coat of arms along with the national animal the South Andean deer (also called the huemel).
What is an Andean Condor?
The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is a large black raptor that has a wingspan of more than 10 feet! These cliff dwelling scavengers can coast on air currents without having to flap their wings for great distances. Their heads are bald with very few feathers if any and they have sharp curved beaks. A ring of white fluffy feathers is around their neck with a patch of black feathers on their chest. When they are in flight you can see white patches on the back of their wing feathers. The males have a unique fleshy strip on the top of their beak that is called a caruncle. When you consider how large these birds really are you might have a better idea why they are so respected and why they were chosen as the national bird.
How Big are Andean Condors?
Some consider the Andean condor to be the largest bird that can fly. They are larger than a bald eagle and can get to be 4 feet tall standing up. Think about a traditional kitchen counter, the standard kitchen counter is 3 feet high, an Andean Condor can get to be about a foot taller than that! They are also some of the heaviest birds that are capable of flight. The heaviest ones can reach 30-33 pounds. Bald eagles in comparison are around 12-14 pounds and can get to be 2 ½ to 3 feet tall. The impressive wing span of the Andean Condor is another feature that makes them quite majestic. Their wing span can reach 10 ½ feet wide from tip to tip.
Where do Andean Condors Live?
Andean condors live along the Andes Mountains as well as along the Pacific Coast. As scavengers they eat the dead carcasses of animals including large animals like deer and guanaco. Along the coast they eat the carcasses of marine animals that wash up on shore. Besides Chile you can find Andean condors in Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. The largest population of Andean condors in Chile live in northwest Patagonia and the Patagonia National Park.
Who is the Cartoon Character Condorito?
Condorito is a popular comic strip and comic book character in Chile and South America based on the Andean condor. His antics have been admired over the years and he has a daily comic strip. He lives in the town of Pelotillehue which is modeled after a typical small town in Chile. Ironically the condor has a pet dog, named Washington that accompanies him in many of the antics he ends up in. In San Miguel, one of the neighborhoods of Santiago, there is a large statue of Condorito and Washington.
Are Andean Condors Endangered?
Andean condors are not endangered but they are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN. The biggest threats are habitat loss and poisoning from scavenging animals like mountain lions and foxes that have been killed illegally using lead poison by hunters. One of the issues for the species is they are slow breeders, they only have one chick every other year. They mate for life and both partners guard the nest. Andean condors live a long time too, with a life span of 50+ years. Conservational efforts are in place to ensure the regal Andean Condor of Chile will reach healthy population levels as the treasured national bird.
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- Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/condor#ref175816
- IUCN Red List, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22697641/181325230
- The National Wildlife Federation, Available here: https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Birds/Bald-Eagle
- WWF Natural Habitat Adventures, Available here: https://www.nathab.com/know-before-you-go/south-america-travel-tips/patagonia/wildlife-guide/andean-condor/
- Swoop Patagonia, Available here: https://www.swoop-patagonia.com/chile/torres-del-paine/wildlife
- National Parks, Available here: https://national-parks.org/chile/patagonia