Fly the condor skies!
July 13, 2020 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Andean condor can fly for 100 miles without flapping wings: World’s largest soaring bird flaps wings only 1% of time in flight, study shows. " “The finding that they basically almost never beat their wings and just soar is mind-blowing,” said David Lentink, an expert in bird flight at Stanford University, who was not involved in the research."
posted by hippybear (12 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Dedicated scientists made this possible.

'The recording devices were programmed to fall off the birds after about a week. Retrieving them was not so easy. “Sometimes the devices dropped off into nests on huge cliffs in the middle of the Andes mountains, and we needed three days just to get there,” Lambertucci said.'
posted by gryftir at 9:04 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

With no intention of diminishing what the Andean Condor can do (all birds are astounding), Albatross are capable of flying upwards of 1000 km a day without flapping their wings... in fact, they have a tendon which locks them when extended so they don't have to use any effort to keep them spread.
posted by kmkrebs at 9:07 PM on July 13, 2020 [9 favorites]

That’s awesome. I’m surprised the Wild Kratts haven’t done an episode on the Andean Condor yet, but that would be a great creature power for them to highlight, so time to fire up the Wild Kratts Facebook fan page....

Also four brand new unreleased Wild Kratts episodes air this week on PBS (US only I suspect) frogs, parrots, iron wolverine(!), and ostrich. Yeah that reaches totally epic Defcon One news scale in our house...
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:08 PM on July 13, 2020

What if the condor is made of gold?
posted by WaterAndPixels at 10:08 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Unflappy Bird.
posted by Foosnark at 4:45 AM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Condor flight video. No visible flapping.
posted by Xurando at 7:13 AM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

The finding that they basically almost never beat their wings and just soar is mind-blowing

Is it, though? I mean, that’s true of pretty much all vultures, isn’t it? A few seconds of flaps followed by hours of lazy circles on thermals?

If anything, 1% seems high.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:38 AM on July 14, 2020

Cool video, Xurando. But what constitutes a flap? I thought I saw two partial flaps in the video. Is only a full flexing of the wings considered a flap?
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2020

I came here to push the Albatross but I see kmkrebs has already taken care of it!

Even human glider pilots can go 1000km or fly all day with no engine, so it should be no surprise that birds can do it much better. I am a glider pilot (not very good) so I'm always looking at (and for) birds soaring, and on one amazing flight I had a raptor (probably a Buteo) come join me in my thermal. Of course he outclimbed me and flew off on his mission.

I have seen many days when all the gliders were landing, unable to finf lift. but we'd see a bird overhead flying along flapping, then it just stops and and spirals up and is gone. Soaring birds are amazing. (Albatrosses are even more amazing, they use a completely different form of lift. Instead uf using the rising air of a thermal, they use the difference in wind speed between 5 feet up and fifty feet up.)

The coolest thing here is that condors are coming back from the brink of extinction, including the California Condor which I hope to see in-flight some day....
posted by phliar at 10:21 AM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

So, 1/4 of a century ago, I was climbing in the Andes near Santiago on a saddle between two peaks, coming back from the San Ramón to our camp on the summit of Provincia, tired, ill equipped (think plastic bags inside my boots), with an amazing view of Santiago laid out below me, and I had to go. Number 2.
So I hung back a bit from my friends, and sat on a rock, and went about my business, when I feel a presence, a certain regard.
Look up, there's a condor, hovering about 10m above me.
It was awesome in both senses of the word. And scary. It was a large, meat eating wild animal, on its home turf, just looking at me.
Never forgot it, especially since I can see the exact spot where it happened from my window.
posted by signal at 11:37 AM on July 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

You probably need a pretty powerful telescope to get the exact spot in view, though...
posted by hippybear at 10:29 PM on July 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Well, it's on a ridge, and I can see the spot from my window. I can't spot the actual rock I was sitting on, though.
posted by signal at 12:26 PM on July 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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