Edgardo was exhausted. His feet dragged along the dirt on his walk home. He had gotten no sleep and stress was getting the best of him. Some of his cattle were ill and he worried their condition would only decline. He thought that day couldn’t get any worse. But when a shadow fell upon them, and his friend screamed, he knew today wasn’t going to be a normal day. And when he looked up, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Most days, it was just Edgardo and his cattle. He tended to them, fed them, ensured they were healthy and safe. The ranch spanned for acres across in Loncopué, Argentina. The only human contact he had most weeks was his friend who helped every now and again. For the most part, he liked being with animals over humans. Then one day, he woke up to a strange noise coming from outside his home.
Edgardo carefully opened his front door and stepped onto his porch. He was used to wild animals passing. Every now and again, they would try to find their way into the barn and steal some food. The wood groaned beneath his feet. He waited… Nothing. Just as he was about to go inside, he heard the noise again. This time, he walked down the steps and discovered a creature hiding behind his bush. But when he saw what it was, he gasped.
YouTube/Cornell Lab Bird Cams
The creature was about the size of a turkey, with grey fluff surrounding its body and a small bald head. It looked like a prehistoric creature! Edgardo paused. If this was just the baby, he did not want to see its mother. Was it a bird? A chicken with alopecia? Of all the possible answers, he never expected this one.
The chick that was staring at him was a young condor—a new world vulture. These animals usually prefer to reside in windy areas where they can glide easily through the strong winds. Edgardo knew this sighting was rare. And he made sure to keep his distance. But then, it began to cry. Was it hungry? Hurt? Against all his better judgment, he looked closer. Then, he made a shocking discovery.
YouTube/Cornell Lab Bird Cams
As Edgardo approached the young bird, it attempted to flee. However, a limp prevented it from doing so. It hobbled a few steps but then squawked and collapsed. He bent down and placed a hand on its back. Maybe if it trusted him, it would let him take a look. But he never thought this would happen.
Edgardo immediately went online to find the best specialists of birds of prey. Although many would prefer to have the beast as a trophy pet, he did not. His mission? To rehabilitate the animal so it could live independently in the wild. He never intended to tame it. But if he was going to help this bird, he needed to make it strong. And he soon discovered what that would entail.
Like any vulture, a condor survives by keeping their eyes on the ground for carrion. However, they prefer to feast on large animals. Unlike their ancestors, condors do not have claws as sharp as other predators. However, many still avoid these aggressive birds. Condors have not yet forgiven humans for hunting them for centuries. Edgardo named her Condorito and vowed to take care of her. He wasn’t afraid, but he should have been.
Edgardo went to the butchers three times a week for scraps and leftover carcasses. He set up a nest for the animal in his shed, fearing she would be trampled by the cattle in the barn. He thought the bird would settle and heal. And she did, but a month later he returned from the ranch to find she had disappeared. He thought he would never see her again. But elephants aren’t the only animals who never forget.
That day, Edgardo decided to walk home from the ranch. The sun was scalding, but it made him feel awake; alive. He had a rough couple of days. A few of the cows were sick from pneumonia. He and a friend had been out all night and all morning keeping a close eye on them. Then, a shadow was cast above him. Was it already night? Then, his friend shouted in horror.
A huge figure circled above them. “Run!” His friend sprinted ahead toward the house. “What is that,” he panted as the dust rose from their footsteps. Then, a black mass landed ahead of them, its wings spanning 10-feet wide. Edgardo paused. His friend fell in fear. What was it? What did it want? Then, it ran towards Edgardo.
His friend screamed as the animal jumped into Edgardo’s arms. Then, something clicked. “Condorito? Is that you?” He held her face and studied her eyes before she pushed her head into his chest. Finally, she had returned to him. But she had grown to a colossal size. Her feathers had turned black, but her head remained bald. She was more like a pterodactyl than a bird. Why had she returned?
Condors are not known to befriend humans. Unfortunately, the giant bird of prey is often a proud display above mantelpieces for many hunters. But their usual area of residence makes them a rare sighting. They only stray from their homes when food is low. And surely enough, Condorito was hungry.
Condorito began to investigate her old home while Edgardo’s friend ran to the house to retrieve some raw steak they had been saving for dinner. She had taken a long trip from the mountains to get there, so was without a doubt famished. She was going to love this T-bone. But as he closed the fridge, he heard Edgardo shout.
When he returned, they had both vanished. He grabbed his phone and ran. Where had they gone? Was Edgardo in trouble? How could they defend themselves against a creature known for being aggressive towards humans? They had no chance against the giant bird. Then, he heard the cows grunting. He sprinted towards the barn.
Edgardo was sat in the dirt beside Condorito by the cattle barn. She pushed her heard towards him, requesting a rub as they basked in the hot sun. Her wings spanned wider than he was tall. And although his friend was frightened, Edgardo wasn’t. He knew she had just come back to check in. But the story doesn’t end there.
Edgardo went on to share the story of Condorito online, where he received hundreds of likes and comments. Many praised his brave nature to touch the notoriously hostile animal, sharing their own scary experience with the birds in the wild. Others criticized his actions, accusing him of taming the bird for his own amusement. But Edgardo had his own say on the matter.
YouTube/Cornell Lab Bird Cams
Edgardo shared that the experience brought him to tears. His aim was always to reintroduce Condorito back to the wild. After the young chick disappeared overnight, he never expected to see her again. Her expression of gratitude is something that has never been documented before with wild condors. But there have been plenty of other cases with different animals.
Condorito wasn’t the first animal to remember their savior. In the late sixties, John Rendall and Ace Berg adopted a lion cub called Christian. As the animal continued to grow in their small flat in London, they had no choice but to introduce it back into the wild. A year later, they flew to Kenya but were warned that the beast had become wild. However, the animal instantly recognized his friends. Were birds really any different?
Edgardo thought Conorito’s visit was just a once-off. However, she continues to visit him on a regular basis for hugs and treats. Edgardo considers himself lucky to have formed such a strong bond with this wild animal. And it seems as though they have years of friendship to look forward to. But how will Edgardo react when she returns with a family?