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The Plumage of the Andean Condor

    Since I am writing openly in the internet on my relationship to angel condor I got some rather strange requests and feedbacks. Those reactions led to the idea of writing this article in order to educate you a bit on the plumage of the andean condor.

     One of those reactions is that people obviously do not know whether those feathers I used for the dancing costume are real feathers from the condor or fake ones, coloured goose or turkey feathers, graphical tricks, done with the well-known editing softwares available for doing this. The possibility that I use real condor-feathers does not spring into their mind - they must be coloured fakes. Well, I do understand that the common reader here does not have seen one living andean condor in your lifetime. Today this majestic bird is extremely rare and even in the andes you only seldom encounter one. Here in europe you can see this bird only in big falconries or zoological institutions. Because I am one of the few persons around that is very versed in the lore of condor-feathers I share my knowledge here in order to avoid future misunderstandings.

     On the left side you can see some of the secondary feathers of the andean condor. As a comparison I included the symetrical rectrice of the spotted eagle, which is already quite big. The longer, black feathers are strictly spoken primaries and not secondaries. The secondary feathers are usual in two colours, as you can see here. The nearer the secondary is to the body, the more it shows silver-white colour in its vane.

     On the right side you can see here the silver-white secondaries, which are very close to the body, but still on the wing. These are extremely rare to get in good shape. The smaller ones are tertials, more akin to the contour-feathers. When building the dancing-costume, back in 1998, I used several of these feathers. Generally speaking, the size of condor-feathers has a big advantage, in terms of proportions: As I built the costume, the original size and wingspan of the condor is best suited for dancing. The proportions are nearly perfect for larger measuring humans like me.

     The primaries are curved, as you can see on the left side, so I showed two of them laying on the side, so that you can estimate their size. The longest one on the image is measuring 27 and a half inches. Here I have selected two larger ones and two small ones. The tailfeather of the eagle is considerable smaller. These feathers are frequently utilized by aeronautical researchers in wind-channels because of their stability and size. Shafts of condor-feathers also were used in South-America to build pan-pipes.

     This image on the right side shows some other types of feathers of the condor. The big black ones are rectrices, of which the symmetrical one is included, for comparison reasons. The pair of really small feathers are contour-feathers, and the longer one at the bottom is an alula-feather, of which the condor has three on each side.

     One of the secondaries I have zoomed, so that you can see the characteristical patterns of the shaft. The silky shining of the vane you can only imagine. A better idea of how they look like you can see on some of the photos taken at the condordance I performed in july 2009.

     The same feather from the other side. Condor-feathers have a very smooth texture and possess on this side delicate little hairs, that create the silver-white colour. All the feathers I show you here are usually on the dancing-costume, with exception of the eagle-feather. I took the images during a maintenance, when I totally dismembered the dancing costume to repair damages.

     Another rather strange reactions of peoples is that they request to know whether I would sell any condor-feather or whether I would take them to my sources, where I can get them myself when in need of replacments. Obviously it is unknown to those peoples that these feathers are listed under the CITES Appendix I. The possession of these feathers is strictly restricted and you need valid papers, that document the origin of them. Without such documents the possession of condor-feathers is illegal - in germany, at least. All my feathers are documented, part of them even by photographic evidence, attached to the CITES. It would cost much time and money to separate one of them out of those documents. Most of my feathers are used in my fans or in the dancing costume. People that ask me to sell them those feathers obviously expect me to destroy my dancing costume, only for their desires. I consider such requests lacking of respect and even impudent, if you think of the consequence.

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