Trophic interactions of pumas, native camelids and Andean Condors in the High Andes

 

This research intends to evaluate if the conservation of a threatened avian scavenger, the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), depends on access to food resources that result principally from the interaction of a large mammalian predator, the puma (Puma concolor), with its ungulate prey, vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna) and guanacos (Lama guanicoe).

To assess this hypothesis, we are using a suite of field and lab methods to investigate the foraging and spatial ecology of Andean condors in a remote area of the Argentinean Andes. Here, we are studying condor diet through pellet content analysis, stable isotope analysis of molted feathers and field observations of condors at feeding sites. We are also GPS tracking Andean condors simultaneously with pumas and vicuñas to investigate how the abundance and distribution of predators and prey influence condor space use and behavior. Additionally, we are comparing condor diet in geographical sites under different management scenarios in central Argentina to evaluate the importance of native wild camelids as food sources to condors. We will also genotype molted feathers collected in these areas to look into condor dispersal movements and gain further understanding of their space use in the region.

This work is funded by AZA, CREOI, Hawk Mountain, and the National Birds of Prey Trust.