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During the mid XIX century, naturalists like Charles Darwin, Enrique Hudson and

Perito Moreno, sightsee condors in the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, even as far north

as the mouth of the Rio Negro. This image that captivated the early naturalists,

was long lost with the local extinction of the species for more than 170 years.

However, since December 2003, thanks to an international conservation effort called

“The Return of the Condor to the Sea”, it was possible to reintroduce the species to

its original circulatory area. Since then, 64 individuals have been released in Sierra

Paileman, District of Valcheta, Province of Rio Negro. Thanks to intense field work

and sophisticated tracking systems of radio telemetry and satellite transmitters, we

know today that day by day they are gaining more flight experience and are able to

travel distances further than 600km from their point of release, connecting the mountain range and the sea. From evidence of their flight paths, we can pinpoint key locations for the conservation of this majestic birds in the Patagonian coast.

In 2009, as a result from studies based on satellite flight paths, we discovered the first nests of the released condors in the Atlantic Coast, after 170 years of their extinction in this area. Due to constant monitoring from camouflage shelters, we were able to observe the birth of the first 10 chicks and follow up their nurturing on part of their parents. Once these chicks started to fly, they are captured and marked with microchips, wing bands, and solar powered radio and satellite transmitters to also follow and study their movements.

This modern technology provides us with useful information to understand their movement patterns in this isolated and rugged terrain, that is the Somuncura plateau. There are about 6 chicks that were born in the Atlantic Coast. The first one was named Cayu, and by December 2016 has reached the sub-adult plumage with its characteristic white ruff around the neck. The success of these births and the survival of the chicks is a remarkable achievement which reinforces the magnitude of the conservation programme.

27 April 1834- The bed of the river became rather narrow, and hence the stream more rapid at a rate of six knots per hour. As such, from the many angular river fragments, manoeuvring the boats became both dangerous and laborious. Today I shot a condor. It measured a wing span of eight and a half feet (2.24m) and from beak to tail, four feet (1.12mts). This bird is known to have a wide habitual geographic range. On the west coast of South America, they occur from the Strait of Magellan along the

Cordillera to as far as 8º north of the equator. The steep cliff near the mouth of the Rio Negro is its northern limit on the Patagonian coast; and they have wandered there about four hundred miles (643.6km) from the great central line of their

habitation in the Andes.

Charles Darwin,

A naturalist in La Plata

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