History of the Condor

More Condor stuff at The Wonder Of Birds:

Introduction to Condors and the California Condor

The Andean Condor

History of the Condor

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Condor picture
Condor picture

Contnued from The Andean Condor

The accounts given by early travellers of the Condor's size and ferocity were so obviously exaggerated that the cautious Ray would not admit it into Willughby's Ornithology, and only included it in his own Synopsis Avium (page 11) after proof that such a bird existed had reached him in the shape of one of its wing-quills brought by Captain Strong to Sir Hans Sloane from the coast of Chili. Nearly a century passed before European ornithologists saw a complete specimen. This was a female which Captain Middleton brought from the Strait of Magllan and deposited in the Leverian Museum, where an illustration of it was made in 1791 by Shaw (Mus. Lev. No. 1, page 4, pl.) Shortly after, a second specimen, this time an adult male, found its way from the same quarter to the same Museum, and a drawing was also made of it in 1793 by the same author (op. cit. No. 6, page 4, pl.).  Both these specimens later passed into the Museum of Vienna (Von Pelzeln, Ibis, 1873, page 16).

The Condor was, however, little known on the European continent, until in 1806 when Humboldt communicated his classical Memoire on the bird to the French  Institute, and as he was certainly the first scientific man who had made its personal acquaintance in life, (As Broderip well remarks Molina can hardly have seen the bird, which he, like Buffon, took to be the same as the Lammergeier.), his account of it deserves the attention with which it has met, and the voracity,stupidity, and tenacity of life of this huge Vulture have through him been long known to the world.

Its habits were later more fully described by Darwin in his Journal. Yet a good many years passed before examples became at all common in European museums, and Temminck writing in 1823 (Rec. d'Ois. livr. 23) was only able to refer to a single one at Paris, beside the two originally received in England. Seven years afterwards he made an artistic illustration of a male which was alive at Paris, and says there was another in Holland. But at or about the same time the species was exhibited in London (Bennett, Gard. and Menag. Zool. Soc. ii. page 8), where it even bred, although the only young bird that, after an incubation lasting from 7th May to 30th June 1846, or 54 days, was hatched lived only for six weeks (Broderip, Leaves from the Note-Book of a Naturalist, pages 14 to 16).  

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